Indian Culture and External Influence  The group-soul differs from

Indian Culture and External Influence



The group-soul differs from the individual only in being

more self-sufficient by reason of its being an assemblage of many

individual selves and capable within of many group variations.

There is a constant inner interchange which may for a long time

suffice to maintain the vitality, growth, power of developing

activity, even when there is a restricted interchange with the

rest of humanity. Greek civilisation,—after growing under the

influence of Egyptian, Phoenician and other oriental influences,

—separated itself sharply from the non-Hellenic “barbarian”

cultures and was able for some centuries to live within itself by

a rich variation and internal interchange. There was the same

phenomenon in ancient India of a culture living intensely from

within in a profound differentiation from all surrounding cultures,

its vitality rendered possible by an even greater richness

of internal interchange and variation. Chinese civilisation offers

a third instance. But at no time did Indian culture exclude altogether

external influences; on the contrary a very great power

of selective assimilation, subordination and transformation of

external elements was a characteristic of its processes; it protected

itself from any considerable or overwhelming invasion,

but laid hands on and included whatever struck or impressed

it and in the act of inclusion subjected it to a characteristic

change which harmonised the new element with the spirit of its

own culture. But nowadays any such strong separative aloofness

as distinguished the ancient civilisations, is no longer possible;

the races of mankind have come too close to each other, are

being thrown together in a certain unavoidable life unity. We

are confronted with the more difficult problem of living in the

full stress of this greater interaction and imposing on its impacts

the law of our being.

Any attempt to remain exactly what we were before the

European invasion or to ignore in future the claims of a modern

environment and necessity is foredoomed to an obvious failure.

However much we may deplore some of the characteristics of

that intervening period in which we were dominated by the

Western standpoint or move away from the standpoint back to

our own characteristic way of seeing existence, we cannot get

rid of a certain element of inevitable change it has produced

upon us, any more than a man can go back in life to what he

was some years ago and recover entire and unaffected a past

mentality. Time and its influences have not only passed over

him, but carried him forward in their stream. We cannot go

backward to a past form of our being, but we can go forward

to a large repossession of ourselves in which we shall make a

better, more living, more real, more self-possessed use of the

intervening experience. We can still think in the essential sense

of the great spirit and ideals of our past, but the form of our

thinking, our speaking, our development of them has changed

by the very fact of new thought and experience; we see them not

only in the old, but in new lights, we support them by the added

strength of new view-points, even the old words we use acquire

for us a modified, more extended and richer significance. Again,

we cannot be “ourselves alone” in any narrow formal sense,

because we must necessarily take account of the modern world

around us and get full knowledge of it, otherwise we cannot

live. But all such taking account of things, all added knowledge

modifies our subjective being. My mind, with all that depends

on it, is modified by what it observes and works upon, modified

when it takes in from it fresh materials of thought, modified

when it is wakened by its stimulus to new activities, modified

even when it denies and rejects; for even an old thought or

truth which I affirm against an opposing idea, becomes a new

thought to me in the effort of affirmation and rejection, clothes

itself with new aspects and issues. My life is modified in the

same way by the life influences it has to encounter and confront.

Finally, we cannot avoid dealing with the great governing ideas

and problems of the modern world. The modern world is still

mainly European, a world dominated by the European mind and

Western civilisation.We claim to set right this undue preponderance,

to reassert the Asiatic and, for ourselves, the Indian mind

and to preserve and develop the great values of Asiatic and of

Indian civilisation. But the Asiatic or the Indian mind can only

assert itself successfully by meeting these problems and by giving

them a solution which will justify its own ideals and spirit.

The principle I have affirmed results both from the necessity

of our nature and the necessity of things, of life,—fidelity to our

own spirit, nature, ideals, the creation of our own characteristic

forms in the new age and the new environment, but also a strong

and masterful dealing with external influences which need not

be and in the nature of the situation cannot be a total rejection;

therefore there must be an element of successful assimilation.

There remains the very difficult question of the application of

the principle,—the degree, the way, the guiding perceptions. To

think that out we must look at each province of culture and,

keeping always firm hold on a perception of what the Indian

spirit is and the Indian ideal is, see how they can work upon the

present situation and possibilities in each of these provinces and

lead to a new victorious creation. In such thinking it will not

do to be too dogmatic. Each capable Indian mind must think

it out or, better, work it out in its own light and power,—as

the Bengal artists are working it out in their own sphere,—and

contribute some illumination or effectuation. The spirit of the

Indian renascence will take care of the rest, that power of the

universal Time-Spirit which has begun to move in our midst for

the creation of a new and greater India.




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