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Village life suffers from the defects of senility. It lies in a rut--a rut of dirt disease laziness inefficiency, squalor and poverty, ignorance and uneconomical custom. It is in urgent need of reform. The peasants need to be taught how to farm more sensibly; they need to be taught the use of iron plows and to give up the bit of twisted wood which served the ancients but shames the moderns. Everyone--man woman and child--needs to be taught to respect privacy and cleanliness in such simple things as attending to the calls of nature, and not to degrade themselves by imitating the animals. They are human beings and ought to construct simple screened latrines or to dig walled pits rather than ease themselves in public trenches in the street. They need to take some of the gloom out of their dark houses by putting in windows admitting more light. One feels sorry for these victims of unhealthy customs and realizes how strong is the need of fresh vitalizing reforms.

They need to plant more fruit and vegetables and less rice. They ought to substitute wheelbarrows for their heads when moving loads of muck, dirt, or manure.

These reforms must come from external influence, from European interference, if you wish, for initiative is not an Indian gift. I venture to suggest that the Indian government could scarcely perform a more useful service, with so little trouble, than to carry out the following plan: let them translate Mr. F.L. Brayne's little book Socrates in an Indian Village into the principal languages of the country and have it printed in cheap pamphlet form. Let the study of this booklet be made compulsory in every school in India, whether village room or grand university, so that the younger generation will start equipped with these ideas. There is no hope in India from the older men. Greybeards are stuck in their grooves; they are in a rut. But from the younger ones--yes. Young iconoclasts, custom-breakers, are needed.


-- Notebooks Category 15: The Orient > Chapter 2: India > # 219






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