(Recently, while scanning some old family files and records, I chanced upon a number of articles authored by my late father, Sri Bhanu Pratap Singh, who made teaching the mission of his life and practiced it professionally for thirty-seven years. Neatly hand-written over half a century ago, these articles present a wealth of knowledge which I want to share with readers of the present generation. The first of this series of articles, titled ‘MAN’ and presumably intended to be delivered as a lecture at some select gathering of intellectuals, is being reproduced below: Dinesh Singh)
I stand here today not to deliver a lecture on ‘man’ but simply to put before you my own impressions, howsoever queer they may appear to be. I have felt them and reflected over them, and have even sometimes laughed and sighed over them.
Well, before coming to the point I shall amuse you with a song from the greatest English poet Shakespeare and that is:
“Blow, blow thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As a man’s ingratitude.
Come hither, come hither,
Here shall we see no enemy,
But winter and rough weather.
Freeze, freeze thou bitter sky,
Thou don’t bite so nigh.
As friends remember not,
Come hither, come hither.”
Now if this song does not appeal to you, you cannot appreciate Shakespeare but if it does and you admire the truth therein, you as a man have to answer the following questions:
Is not this a pleasure song as pointed out by Shakespeare himself? If so, what pleasure did the duke find in being exposed to the cold and wind? Well, the answer is that the duke, though exposed to the severity of the weather, was free from all those miseries which man causes to man. He finds himself happy more in the lonely forest than in the civilized world, more without the company of human beings than with them, more in eating coarse food and being exposed to rough weather than in the luxuries of the court. In short, all the troubles in the world put together were nothing to him, as compared with those caused to him by man.
Why man is not happy despite of unprecedented prosperity?
Had he gone mad? No, my friends, he understood the nature of man that I want here to point out to you. Of this, i.e. human nature, there are two special elements – ambition and selfishness. By the one, man wants to reach the highest possible point of happiness, name and fame; by the other he wants these for himself and for himself only and is anxious lest others also become like himself. This is why the duke prefers the life of a forester to that of a civilized man. He prefers the company of the wild deer to that of selfish men, and birds’ note to human song.
Well, man is a rational being, and as such, he should try to be happy himself and keep other creatures happy. Let us see if he does so. Of course, man does try to be happy himself and boasts of keeping others also happy. But do his actions prove so?
Suppose you are two brothers. You inherit vast property from your father. You enjoy it yourself and let your brother also, who is not as clever as you are, enjoy it. You keep yourself as well as your brother happy. But if you take all the inheritance for yourself and do not let your brother have anything of it, or if you allow your brother only so much as is just sufficient to keep his body and soul together, do you think you keep him happy. Certainly not. Wherein lies your brotherhood, your love for your brother? Your cleverness, your wisdom and the other qualities in you, which you call good, are not good to him. They are not a boon but a curse to him. He would have been rather happier and could have better enjoyed the inheritance from his father had you not been so clever and so wise, for then you could not have deprived him of his share.
You will find examples of this both in the human society, proud of its civilization, and the greater society, i.e. God’s creation of which man poses to be the leader. Let us examine the conditions in these two societies. Has not your menial servant, as God’s son and hence your brother, an equal claim in the luxuries you enjoy; or has not even the street-dog a share in your food – the dog which is as affectionate a son to the common father, God, as you are? Have you not taken all for yourself and given to your brother nothing? Do you think yourself rational, just or civilized; or is your civilization worth being called as such? Have you, as a rational human being, not destroyed the happiness of other beings who have an equal claim in the creation’s common wealth?
You may say that you keep animals in better condition than they would have been, if left to themselves. But if you closely examine the fact, you do not find it flawless. Wild animals look merrier and healthier than your tame ones. Not to say of being better with you, they have gone worse. Moreover, you tame them not for their good but for your own, for why do you not tame other animals which are not of use to you. It is simply exploiting the animals which could have led better lives, had man not the rationality to catch and tame them.
You may say that the other beings are at liberty to do for their happiness what man has done for his own happiness. Dear friends! There lies the injustice and want of brotherly feeling. You have usurped all the natural resources on land and water and have left little for them, for why do you not, then, let the monkeys eat the fruits of your garden? Is it not theirs as well as yours? Why do you drive away the sparrows when they build a nest in your house? You will say that you have laid out the garden and built the house and, for this reason, they are yours and must be reserved for your use. But so have the bees gathered honey that must be reserved for their use. What is the logic when you snatch away the honey from the bees?
You may cry out: It is the struggle for existence. It is the law of nature that every creature should strive for its existence and that the fittest would survive; that man, the strongest and the fittest, has surpassed other beings. Well, I admit that but I also admit that there must be a limit to that struggle. You have struggled too much. Animals also do that struggle and that is for food, shelter and safety from enemies. Man also must be content with that much of struggle. You will say, “Are we animals to do only that much. We exert more and are happier.”
Dear friends, ponder over it and try to find out if you are really happier than animals. How? Do you get enjoyment in the choicest of your food more than the monkey does in his roughest? Are you safer from your enemies than the smallest insect? There is a limit to the insects’ enemies but what limit can be to yours when one man is enemy to another. Your bedding is quite smug but do you sleep undisturbed by cares for tomorrow? Is your sleep sounder than that of a dog which sleeps the least? Do you look merrier than a bird? Did Tansen ever sing a merrier song in the court of Akbar or did the fanciest girl ever tread a merrier measure in the proudest of kings’ court than the lark does in the sky or the peacock does in the forest? You know medicines but you have more diseases than animals have. You have sciences and industries but you feel more that you are in want than animals feel. You feel you are poor and suffer from the pangs of it. Do animals ever feel so? So, in what respect are you happier than other beings? What is the outcome of your much-praised struggle? In fact you have destroyed your own happiness and that of other beings by this struggle of yours, and if you can ever find happiness, it can be in the lessening of it. Man was provided with reason not to misuse it but to use it for the happiness of all, to strain it not for his existence alone but for common good, and not to forget the self but to realize it.