The Second volume of The Word Speaks to the Faustian Man follows, in the man, the method and plan of the first volume both in translation and commentary.
As the title would suggest, this work is not a mere work of Indology but an explicit critique of modern civilisation and its myths and ideologies. The civilisation (?) reflected in the Upanisads may be called aranyaka grama, forest polis, civilisation. It is civilisation that incorporates within itself its own negation and opposite and has wrought a clearing for the latter through the act of sacrifice. For the creative centre of this civilisation is not the grama or the nagara, the village or the town, but the aranyaka, the forest. This civilisation does not care to draw a clear line between the polis and the forest, and because it does not draw this line, it does not find earth and heaven marked by unbridgeable gap or, for that matter, man and god. Man is not, in this vision, an undecidable fragility between the beast and the god, as it was for the Greeks, nor is his place the ever fluid and uncertain no-place between the desert and heaven.
If man does not fear the forest, does not find it a killing other, if he is human enough to love the tree, the beast and the bird and endure with meekness the wrath of the tiger and the lion, he will not find the earth unresponsive, the sky distant and heaven a dry concept. For gods will be his neighbours because beasts will be his kin. The cosmos will fail to measure the expanse of his soul and heaven its gracious serenity and hell its compassionate patience. For this Purusa, this man, will transcend the bounds of the fallen, the real and the ideal, of hell, earth and heaven. He will be all, will be what we chose to call being and not-being, life and death, what has been and will be.
The forest will not be place of his undoing, it will be his chosen purgatory, his tapovana, where to burn bright and glorious. He will live defenceless to partake of the peace that breathes in earth and sky. Gracious will he be to the four-footed as he will be to the two-footed, these tormented by wrath, those by greed. It is this serene forbearance and compassion, this meek and humble endurance that will expand his soul to the [no-] extent that the sky will dwell in it as a speck and the cosmos as a drop of his blood. Infinity will be the size of his thumb and eternity the duration of his breath.
When this happens, the learned will come to him for instruction, the princes for protection and the unhappy for hope and the disillusioned for salvation. They will come to him because he will be innocent like a roe, defenceless like earth and poor like poverty itself.
Living alone without learning, without power and without wealth, he will fashion the face and soul of civilisation, this humble nonentity, he will fashion the face and soul of civilisation, this humble nonentity. He will purify the learned of their pride, the powerful of their inhumanity, the rich of their vulgarity, the poor of their despair. He will make the learned respect the ignorant, the powerful and rich care for the weak and the poor. He alone will be the sustainer of civilisation, he who has turned his back upon it. And of earth too. For men and women will know and learn from his words, his expressions and his gestures that the mute too speak and the insensate breathe.
They will learn to open out to earth, to air and sky in his presence, to be absolutely at peace with them. The deep stillness of his body will arrest them and their thoughts, and the awesome enigma that once was his face but now something which neither life can encompass nor death. Nothing will they think of the, nothing remember. That still presence will displace their thoughts, their feelings and their functions. His body will be revelation for its beholders; it will be their truth absolute. They will find not merely man in it but also the cosmos and their God. For all will be there, and more than all. Such will be the ontological magnitude of that body for the unhappy seekers of truth, those who are neither learned nor powerful nor rich but only mortals, bare mortals.
The forest - polis civilisation met its decline when the Brahmin became arrogant, 'holy' and privileged he who was supposed to emulate the seer during his brief sojourn at the grama. This culture was ruined when the ksatriya, the ruler, lived not as a mortal but as a tyrant. It met its end when the vaisya, the man of wealth, did not earn money but started making it, when he did not share it with the elements and with creatures the winged, the four footed and the two footed. In one word, when caste was divorced from asrama, the system embodying the various stages of life, this civilisation got perverted. Caste turns into evil when the guiding spirit of renunciation embodied in the system of asrama ceases to inform it. Some explanation of caste and asrama system the reader will find in the first two volumes of this work. For a detailed analysis of the system, he may kindly wait for the subsequent volumes.
Modern man finds no use in the seer that fuses the forest into civilisation. For him a system is enough, a system embodying his understanding, his practice and rationality, a system tentative, revisable, criticisable. The loneliness of the helpless old man does not add new dimensions to it nor the tragedy of the unsuccessful man nor of the mad man. Their torture and despair have nothing to enrich this system to make it less confident. What happens to civilisation when it insults the old, the unhappy and the rail, when it becomes blind to the potentiality of madness within and desolation without, the reader will find in Shakespeare's King Lear, a brief analysis of which, from this point of view, I give in some of pages of this volume. And what can civilisation learn from a poor forest dweller, from a solitary seer, he will find in the account I give of the descent of revelation on a dark, stormy night in one of the fearsome forest of Kashmir.
To him alone, the account will show, the truth of samatvam, of equality, will be revealed who lives as stillness, a solitude, a nothingness. It is to such a no-man that civilisations have to turn for enrichment, even for survival. Kings will not turn philosopher, philosophers will not turn wise and the rich will not turn givers unless they turn to the humble and poor forest dweller. No civilisation can survive which is based on only knowledge, power and revisable system. For injustice will breed there and greed and non-feeling.
Let us, even in this belated hour, learn to expand the bounds of our civilisation. For our home is not the human polis but the earth and the sky. And death. If we do not wish to commit collective suicide, we have to learn to find a place in our midst for these others. The Faustian Man must stop his prattle and wait in patience for the peal of the word.
I must, to come back to the nagara, thank philosophers, scholars and writers for their kind words and gracious gestures with regard to the first volume. Thanks are due to Professor Paul Ricoeur and Professor Jean-Francois Lyotard for their generous response and also to Professor J.N. Mohanty, Professor Alex Wayman, Professor Debabrata Sinha, Mr. Raphael and Mr. David Frawley. I am also grateful to Professor D.P. Chattopadhyaya, Professor Daya Krishna, Professor John Grimes and many others for their deeply appreciative comments/opinions.
I am especially grateful to Dr Paulos Mar Gregorios, Professor G.C. Pande and Professor Richard DeSmet for truly encouraging reviews.
Professor R. Panikkar is now more than an appreciative reader, even more than a friend. We are what is called in Sanskrit sakha-s, named alikes. We share so many of what he happily terms myths that our differences hardly matter.
Thanks are due to Ministry of Human Resource Development, Department of Culture for awarding me their senior fellowship and Mr. K.K. Birla for a grant which made the task of preparing the manuscript somewhat less worrisome than it would otherwise have been. To Professors Namavar Singh for his deep interest in my work and its success and to Mr. N.P. Jain for constant encouragement. To Sunjay Sharma, my former student and now my colleague, for nagging and remorseless criticism and editing the manuscript. He also read the proofs. I am grateful for his patience and his affection.
It remains for me to remember my wife and children. Their self-denial is incredible. I do not criticise them when I say it is unreasonable. Anil, my son-in-law, would not give consent that I menion what he has done. I respect his felling.
From the Jacket:
True to the bhasya tradition of India, this work is at once a vision and analysis, exposition and criticism. A spirit of serene and passive self-submission informs its interpretations and an austere detachment its criticisms and analyses. It questions, with persistent consistency, many of our cherished beliefs and seeks to revive some of our lost but lucid visions. And in a style that resists attempts that would draw distinctions between philosophy and literature, discourse and disclosure.
The present work forms the second volume of this series devoted to translation and interpretation of the Prasthanatrayi and Sankara bhasya. A full account of the project is given inside.
About the Author:
Som Raj Gupta teaches English at Kirori Mal College, University of Delhi.
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