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Why is it that the Oriental masses live in materially degraded and mentally enslaved surroundings? And are they not mostly famished men with skinny bodies and hollow stomachs in this land of many paupers and a few potentates? Is it unreasonable to expect that the holy men should, by their transcendental wisdom and spiritual forces, have kindled such great inward and outward development amongst their own peoples as to place them in the vanguard of nations? Yet the very reverse seems to be the case. They themselves give various and conflicting answers to these pointed queries. What credence can be given to their answers? Shall we remind them, with Carlyle, "There is your fact staring you in the face"? Anyone who studies the history of the bygone Orient or travels through the present-day Orient will know that no words can get rid of this uncomfortable fact. The suffering and ignorant masses have not had their sufferings removed nor their ignorance dispelled by the holy men whom they have fed and supported. There have been honourable excellent and admirable exceptions--such as Swami Vivekananda, of course--who have devoted their lives to service or instruction, but they have been few and far between. What, then, does this mean? It can only mean that the efforts of the mystics were primarily directed for their own benefit, on the one hand, and that they lacked either the desire or the capacity to assist the masses, on the other hand. This is not necessarily to their discredit if we regard it as an indication of the limitations of mysticism itself; it stands to their discredit only if they make exaggerated claims on its behalf, as they usually do.


-- Notebooks Category 15: The Orient > Chapter 2: India > # 208






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