A Hindu Professor’s Views on Indian Yoga
Theosophist, April, 1881
We lay aside other matter already in type to give place to the essential portions of an “Introduction to Indian Yoga” which is found in the January number of Professor M. M. Kunte’s Saddarshana-Chintanika. In this period of almost total spiritual eclipse in India, it is well worth the while of every student of Aryan Science to cull corroborative testimony from every source. We are (spiritually speaking) passing once more through the Stone Age of thought. As our cave-dwelling ancestors were physically perfect, if not even gigantic, while at the same time intellectually undeveloped, so this our generation seems to evince but a very rudimentary spiritual grasp while apparently developed in intellect to the utmost extent possible. It is, indeed, a hard, materialistic age: a fragment of sparkling quartz is its appropriate symbol. And yet of what “age” and “generation” do we speak? Not of that of the masses, for they change but little from generation to generation: no, but of the educated class, the leaders of thought, the controllers or stimulators of the opinions of that great middle social group lying between the highly cultured and the brutishly ignorant. They are the sceptics of today who are as incapable of rising to the sublimity of Vedantic or Buddhistic philosophy as a tortoise to soar like the eagle. This is the class which has derided the founders of the Theosophical Society as imbeciles, or tried to brand them as falsificators and impostors as they have also done with their greatest men of science. For six years now, we have been publicly asserting that Indian Yoga was and is a true science, endorsed and confirmed by thousands of experimental proofs; and that, though few in number, the true Indian Yogis may still be found when the right person seeks in the right way. That these affirmations should be challenged by Europeans was only to be expected, inasmuch as neither modern Europe nor America had so much as heard of the one thing or the other until the Theosophists began to write and speak. But that Hindus—Hindus, the descendants of the Aryas, the heirs of the ancient philosophers, the posterity of whole generations that had practically and personally learnt spiritual truth—should also deny and scoff, was a bitter draught to swallow. Nevertheless, we uttered our message, and not in a whisper, but boldy. Our voice came back to us almost echoless from the great Indian void. Hardly a brave soul stood up to say we were right, that Yoga was true, and that the real Yogis still existed. We were told that India was dead; that all spiritual light had long since flickered out of her torch; that modern Science had proved antiquity fools; and, since we could hardly be considered fools, we were virtually asked if we were not knaves to come here and spread such foolish lies! But when it was seen that we were not to be silenced by counter-proof, and that no such proof could be given, the first signs appeared of a change of the current of opinion. The old Hindu philosophies acquired fresh attractiveness, their mythological figures were infused with a vital spirit which, like the light within a lantern, shone out through their many-coloured fantasies. One of the best known Bengalis in India writes (March 3):—“You are now universally known and respected by our people, and you have performed a miracle! Why, the other day, in a company of friends, the question was raised how it was that the educated Babus generally should now be showing so strong an inclination towards Hinduism. I said it was owing to the Theosophists, and it was so admitted by all present.” Let us say that this is but the partiality of a friend—though, indeed, the writer is one of the leading publicists among the Hindus—it matters not. We care nothing for the credit, we only care for the fact. If this Aryanistic drift continues it will end in a thorough revival of ennobling Hindu philosophy and science. And that implies the collapse of dogmatic, degraded forms of religions, in India and everywhere else.
Some time ago our friend Sabhapathy Swami, the “Madras Yogi,” publicly endorsed the truth of all that the Theosophists had said about Yoga and Yogis. Recently, the practical Treatise on Yoga by Dr. N. C. Paul, in which the scientific basis of Patanjali’s Sutras was shown, has been republished in these columns. Today we add the testimony of one of the most learned of living Hindus to the reality of the science and the existence of real Yogis among us. According to Prof. Kunte “the Vedic polity culminated, and the Buddhistic polity originated in the Yoga system of Patanjali—a system at once practical and philosophical.” He observes that “Disgusted with objective nature and his environment, the Arya in the Middle Ages of Indian History—that is, about 1,500 years B.C.—began to look in on himself, to contemplate the inner man, and to practice self-abnegation.” This is a terse summary of the facts, and a just one. “All religions,” he continues, declare that God is omnipresent. Some mysterious spiritual power pervades the universe. Well—this the Yoga-philosophy calls Chaitanya. All religions declare that God is Spirit, and is allied to that in man which can commune with Him; yes, that which the Holy Ghost influences—the Holy Ghost or God dwelling in the Spirit of man. Well—these the Yoga philosophy characterizes as the Supreme Spirit and the human spirit—the Paramâtmâ and Jîvâtmâ. The relationship between the Supreme Spirit and the human spirit varies according to the Vedic creed and Yoga-philosophy. And because of this variance, the standpoint and the outlook of each is distinct. The standpoint and the outlook are, however, the outcome of historical conditions and environment. Hence the Yoga system of philosophy, on the interpretation and explanation of which we are about to enter, has two sides—historical and philosophical, and we will carefully point out the bearings of both.
Unhappily Prof. Kunte has had no practical experience with modern Spiritualism and, therefore, totally fails to give his readers any proper idea of its wonderful phenomena. It would also seem as if he were equally unfamiliar with what the Theosophists have written upon the subject, for he could scarcely have failed, otherwise, to note that gentlemen not merely of “some scientific reputation” but of the very greatest scientific rank, have experimentally proved the actual occurrence of mediumistic phenomena. We take and have always taken the same position as himself, that the phenomena are not attributable to “spirits of the dead,” and in so far as they pretend otherwise are a delusion. But it will need more than the few passing words he flings at spiritualists to “sap the foundations” of the broad fact upon which his “rhapsodists” have raised their superstructure. “Is Yoga modern spiritualism?”—he quite superfluously asks, since no one ever said it was—and answers “No, no.”
“What is it then? Modern spiritualism imagines strange sights which it dignifies by the name of phenomena, and by calling in the aid of the spirits of the dead, attempts to explain them. The rhapsodies of girls, whose brains are diseased, have often amused us. But what has astonished us is that gentlemen of some scientific reputation have lent their aid to the propagation of strange stories. Reader, an Indian Yogi knows for certain that this sort of spiritualism is positive deceit, let American spiritualists write and preach what they like. The spirits of the dead do not visit the living, nor do they concern themselves in our affairs. When the foundations of American and European Spiritualism are thus sapped, the superstructure raised by mere rhapsodists is of course demolished. But Indian Yoga speaks of spiritual powers acquired by the Yogis. Yes, it does and does so reasonably. Indian Yoga is occult transcendentalism which has a history of its own.”
A sad truth he utters in saying:—
“At present Yoga is known by name only, except in the presence of some Yogis, who inherit the warmth, the depth, and grasp, and aspirations of the Upanishads.”
In concluding the portion of his introduction that is contained in the present issue of his serial, he gives us the credentials upon which he claims attention as a competent analyst of the Patañjali Sutras. It must be noted that he affirms not only to have personally met and studied with a real living Yogi who, “when due preparation (of the public mind) is made, will reveal himself,” but also concedes that an identical faith in the reality of the Yoga siddhis—presumably based upon observed facts—survives among Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, and Mussulmans. The following passages will be read with interest in Europe and America:—
“The reader has a right to enquire, as to what preparation we have made for interpreting and explaining the occult transcendentalism of the Indian Yoga system. Our answer to this query is simple and short. We sit first in the presence of one who knows Indian Yoga, has practised its principles, and whose spirit is imbued with its realities, and then we note down his utterances. We have traveled through India and Ceylon in quest of the knowledge of Yoga, have met with Yogis, have gleaned with care truths from them, have sat at the feet of eminent Buddhists in remote Ceylon, have admired their aspirations and have obtained some insight into their standpoint. We have actually served some eminent Sufis for some time, and obtained glimpses of their doctrines on the bank of the Jumna. We have prostrated ourselves before the Yogis and, by a series of entreaties and humiliations, have succeeded in securing the means of interpreting and explaining the Yoga-sutras of Patanjali. At present we cannot directly mention the name of the Yogi to whom we have referred. When due preparation is made, he will reveal himself.
“But for what purpose is all this labour? Quo bono? The reply is—pro bono publico. Whether we sit down on the bank of the tank in Amritsar, listening to the Sikhs, as they talk gravely of Brahma; or mix with the Palavur Roman Catholic Christians near Cape Comorin as they speak of the miraculous powers of their saints; whether we see a Moslem saint in one of the hundreds of tombs of Delhi, or a mendicant devotee in Madura in the South, we find that the Indian population has supreme faith in the Yoga-philosophy.” . . . . .