S. Radhakrishnan, An Idealist View of Life, George Allen & Unwin, London (1951), p. 65.
Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol. V, p. 145.
Ibid., Vol. in, pp. 515-16.
Vivekananda maintained that the individual perfects himself by acting freely and the perfect individual, in turn, perfects society. The strength and vitality of society depends on individual initiative and freedom. It is only when individual growth is obstructed, that social assistance to the r«vdividual is justified. The individual is to be assisted and not *rded over in his quest for freedom. According to Vivekananda, society was only a social agency and it should not encroach on individual freedom. His belief in freedom led him to advocate for the rights of individuals in society. Liberty becomes meaningless without equality of rights. His faith in the inherent individual freedom is the basis of his defence of equal rights and opportunities for all individuals to manifest their growth. Vivekananda's recognition of the natural rights of an individual, in fact, puts an end to all kinds of privileges in society and establishes the right to individual equality. He condemned the privileges as baneful and tyrannical. Thus, he advocated for social equality, and in this aspect he was much impressed by the Western society.
However, he was of the view that the individual freedom should not be viewed in an isolated way, and it must be studied in relation to society. In fact, his concept of individual freedom has a bearing on the problems of the individual's relationship with society. But the society should also not be allowed to encroach upon the individual freedom. He believed that it existed for the individual and not the individual for it.
The implication of social freedom is that individual freedom is closely related to social freedom. Vivekananda pointed out that "None deserves liberty who is not ready to give liberty."" He suggested that for proper growth, society must cultivate an assimilative outlook and receive new ideal from other communities. In other words, he meant by social liberty growth-oriented social life based on individual freedom and equality.
Vivekananda believed that social uplift could be achieved by coordinating social liberty with social equality. He regarded liberty and equality not as exclusive terms but complementary to each other. Social liberty encourages and ought to encourage social equality and unity. He demanded that the society should spend more on the education of the poor than on the rich and the intelligent. As a matter of fact, Vivekananda's insistence on social liberty and equality proved to be a severe jolt to the authoritarian outlook of the Indian society.
Although Vivekananda's concept of freedom was primarily spiritual, he did not ignore the social and material sides of it. To the worldly man, material life is as real as the social life. To deny material life to him is to condemn him to death. It is only when man is exhausted with pleasures of life, that he comes to know the futility of the evanescent material life and will be in search of spiritual freedom. Thus, Vivekananda wanted to base the organisation of society on a synthesis of material and spiritual life. In short, his concept of freedom is all-inclusive. It stands for a synthesis of the individual and social freedom, material and spiritual freedom. His deification of freedom led htm to advocate human equality.
Democracy as a Way of Life
U Ibid., Vol. IV, p. 368.
Vivekananda's plea for the individual initiative and social equality made him a firm believer in the institution of democracy. The liberation of the masses, involved in the concept of social equality, necessitates their participation in the activities of the government. He came to believe that some form of government by the people is in the offing and pointed out with certainty that the future belongs to the masses, Shudras. Thus, he identified ii>: Shudra rule with democracy. By Shudra rule, he certainly meant the rule of the masses, and not the mle of a particular section of the society. And by democracy, he meant not representative or indirect democracy, as it is current today. His was
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the man-making process: it inculcates faith in self-reliance and self-government; it eliminates the dependence of the individual on parliament. It brings out the latent abilities of the individual into full play to shoulder the responsibilities of government. In other words, it makes the individual ethical, social and spiritual. But the man-making process is only a means to Vivekananda, and the end is the realisation of the ideal of Brahminhood, which is without laws, government and property. The Brahmin is the embodiment of self-restraint, renunciation and selfless activity.
15 Ibid., Vol. V, p. 202,
Vivekananda viewed democracy both as a way of life and a form of government. As a government, it could not last long without a way of life. As a way of life, democracy envisages freedom, equality and brotherhood and their union. Vivekananda's supreme faith in the inalienability of freedom, equality and unity made him espouse democracy as a way of life. Speaking on democracy as a form of government, he maintained that social evolution was possible through the cyclical rule of the caste system. The cyclical caste rule provided the theory of forms of government, namely the Brahmin, the Kshatriya, the Vaishya and the Shudra. He was of the view that forms of government were evolutionary, and not based on individual whims and fancies. He praised the Brahmin rule for its accumulation of spiritual lore, the Kshatriya for promoting science and civilization, and the Vaishya for forging international contacts. He made it clear that all these forms of caste rule in course of time became degenerated and estranged from the bulk of population who constituted the main source of power in all forms of caste rule. The cyclical replacement of Vaishya ultimately paves the way for the rise of Shudra. Vivekananda identified the rise of Shudra with democracy, and he became their votary. He pointed out that everything goes to show that some form of rule by the people, call it what you will, is coming on the boards."15 He was an ardent defender of democracy, because he was against the rule of one or the few. He strongly believed that the new order of things is for the people and by the people. He made it clear that in all forms of government the ultimate source of power is always the subject masses. The government of the people and by the people could provide an opportunity for them to uplift themselves and mould their future. He believed that democracy encouraged individual initiative and self-reliance in administering the affairs of government. From this standpoint, he criticised the party system, which is thought necessary today for forming the government. The philosophy of Vedanta, of which Vivekananda was a votary, is inconsistent with the present party system. Hence, to avert the evil effects of representative democracy and to strengthen democracy, he laid emphasis on the man-making process through education, sacred and secular.
Universal Religion and Internationalism
Religion, according to Vivekananda, does not consist in subscribing to a particular preed or faith but in spiritual realization. The divinity within must be brought to one's perpetual level. He believed that in spiritualism lies India's greatness. This spirituality does not mean the changing manners and customs, but the idea of "oneness of all, the infinite, the idea of the impersonal, the wonderful idea of the eternal soul of man, of the unbroken continuity in the march of beings, and the infinity of the universe."16 This is what the Vedanta tells us, and that was the reason that Vivekananda accepted its sound metaphysics and universality.
The Vedanta fulfils the objectivity of all religious quest. It, ? ccording to Vivekananda, consists of eternal principles which stand upon their own foundations, without depending upon the authority of persons or incarnations. It alone can be regarded as Universal Religion, for it teaches principles, not persons. No religion built upon the authority of a person or persons can be universally accepted by all the races of mankind. "The sanction of the Vedanta is the eternal nature of man, already existing, already attained."1' As it kindles the fire of spiritualism in man, it sets the foundations of a new world, free from all kinds of creeds and dogmas. It thus aims at serving the whole of mankind and creating world brotherhood.
Ibid., Vol. I, p. 167.
Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol. I, p. 373.
Ibid., Vol. Ill, p. 240.
Besides Vedanta, Vivekananda's faith in international unity and brotherhood was also strengthened by his understanding of the role of science. He said that "To my mind, if modem science is proving anything again and again, it is this that w. are one—mentally, spiritually and physically."18 Science is bringing the world together and accelerating universal unity. He pointed out that "The old lines of demarcation and differentiation are vanishing rapidly. Electricity and steam-power are placing the different parts of the world in inter-communication with each other. . . ,"18 Hence, both his philosophy of the Vedanta and his understanding of science revealed to him that nations are not different from the universe. He was of the firm opinion that all individuals and nations were parts of the Universal Existence, Brahman. He hoped that nations by realising their individual nature would also realise the nature of universal unity. He firmly held the view that neither the Vedanta nor science negates the existence of different nations. Thus, he affirmed international unity and brotherhood through national diversities and religious and cultural varieties.
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Swami Vivekananda was a great nationalist of India, who wanted to revitalize the nation through the vitality of religion. He believed that religion constituted the "centre, the keynote of the whole music of national life of India." In him, the Hindu renaissance became "self-conscious and adolescent." He was born at such a critical period in the history of India, when all the higher impulses were overborne by the onrushing tide of materialism. The educated people were imitating foreign habits as they felt that the real solution to the problems of India and her progress lay in the acceptance of the Western methods and institutions. Vivekananda tried to stem this tide, and placed before his countrymen the splendid and invigorating message of the Vedanta which combined the spirituality of the East with the spirit of social service and organisational capacity of the West. This is what his philosophy of neo-Vedantism stands for, and which he used to effect a synthesis, of cultures of the East and the West, and thereby to find out the real salvation of humanity.
BAL GANGADHAR TILAK (I 856-1 920)
Tilak : Life and Works
Bal Gangadhar Tilak, a man of an indomitable energy and a new vision, was born in Maharashtra in 1856, of the caste of Chitpavan Brahmins who had ruled over Shivaji's empire. He was born thirty-eight years after the final British conquest of Maratha power. He was a scholar of the first rank, educator, journalist and first among the leaders of the new India. Tilak learned the values of the Bharat-dhirma as a child in bis home at Ratnagiri. His father was an educator and he carefully tutored the boy in Sanskrit and Mathematics ; and his mother helped to mould his firm character and to teach him the values of his classical heritage. From both parents he learned a healthy veneration for spiritual values, and he learned that he shared the history of the Marathas, that he was heir to a glorious martial tradition. His religious or spiritual orientation, the product of his family's devoutness, was apparent in bis later writings, as when he wrote : "The greatest virtue of man is to be filled with wonder and devotion by anything in the animate and inanimate creation that suggests inherent divinity."1 He also made continuous reference to the great Shivaji and the history of his Maratha people, the fiery tradition of their independence, their war against the Moghul Empire to restore Swaraj and to save the dharma. The Maratha people had not forgotten that they had been free, that Swaraj had been their birthright. From his childhood, he inherited a vision of a new India arising, firmly based on the spirit and traditions of her civilization and her glorious past.
1 Kesari, June 1, 1897.
Tilak had an English education in India, but he was far less deracinated than most students of his generation, for he specialized in Mathematics and Sanskrit, and, if anything, his education brought him closer to the sources of his heritage. When he studied law, he concentrated on classical Indian law, reading nearly all the great books of law and legal commentaries. His study of Sanskrit was a life-long occupation, and he was recognized as one of India's leading Sanskrit scholars. Relying upon his knowledge of this ancient language and his mathematical training, he wrote Orion, Studies in the Antiquity of the Vedas, in which he explored the thesis that the Rig Veda was composed as early as 4500 B.C., basing his evidence on
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astronomical calculations from the Sanskrit texts. This work gained him recognition in the western world for his scholarship in Oriental Studies. His second great book was again on the Vedas—The Arctic Home of the Vedas, in which, relying upon astronomical and geological data, he argued that the Aryans probably originally lived in the far northern reaches of the Asiatic continent. This book is credited as being one of the most original and unusual works in Sanskrit scholarship. The Vedic Chronology was a posthumously published volume of his notes and further researches. His greatest work was the Gita-Rahasya, a philosophical inquiry into the secret of the teaching of the Gita, the holiest book of the Aryadharma. in this volume he reinterpreted the Gita in its classical sense, restoring the proper emphasis to the philosophy of action, the Karma-Yoga : and his is considered one of the outstandjng studies of the Gita in modern Indian literature. The Gita-Rahasya assured Tilak's place among the greatest of India's scholars and philosophers. His classical studies enabled him to recapture the spirit of India's classical philosophy of life. In his heart of hearts he always remained a humble student of India's greatness. Even after he had become the foremost political leader of India, be often said that he wished he could devote his life to teaching mathematics and pursuing his scholarly research into the wisdom of India's ancient civilization.
His Mission in Life
Soon after the completion of his university education, Tilak embarked upon his mission in life. As he was deeply interested in education and public service from his young age, he resolved to dedicate his life to the cause of reorientation of Indian education and drastic social and political reforms. In these ventures he was joined by his best friends, G. G. Agarkar and V. K. Chiplunkar. All of them wanted, as N. C. KeJkar has written, "the nation to know itself and its past glories so that it may have confidence in its own strength and capacity to adapt itself wisely and well to the new surroundings without losing hs individuality."1 Hence, Tilak assisted by his friends, started the New English School in 1880. The institution was such an immediate success that they founded the Deccan Education Society in Poona, and the next year started the famous Fergusson College. Simultaneously, they began editing and publishing two newspapers, the Kesari, a Marathi-language Weekly, and The Mahratta, its English-language counterpart. All these young men dedicated themselves, their lives and their fortunes to popular education through their schools and through their newspapers.
2 N. G. Kelkar : Pleasures and Privileges of the Pen, Bk. I, p. 121.
But soon a sharp difference arose between Tilak and his friends over the question of social reform. As a result, Tilak could not remain for long associated with the Deccan Education Society, and
BAL GANGADHAR TILAK
he ultimately parted with his co-workers. It was finally decided at the end of 1890 that Tilak should purchase the Kesari and The Mahratta and devote himself to journalism, while Agarkar and other social workers would have a free hand in the Deccan Education Society.
As an editor, Tilak was unsurpassed. The Kesari and The Mahratta under his guidance were always tremendously influential and came to be financiai'y successful. His sincerity and unflinching sense of dedication led him to champion the causes of his people against any and all who wo^ld be unjust, autocratic or opportunistic. As editor of the Kesari, Tilak became the awakener of India, the Lion of Maharashtra, the mcst influential Indian newspaper editor of his day. It was as editor that Tilak began his three great battles— against the westernizing social reformers, against the inert spirit of orthodoxy and against the British Raj. It was as editor that he became a leader of the new forces in the Indian National Congress and the Indian nation.
Belief in Indian Values and Philosophy
Tilak's first reaction was to the Western civilization's system of values. He rejected the ideology of those intellectuals who based their programme of social and political action almost entirely on the philosophy of life and action of nineteenth-century Europe. These inte'lectuals were truly more the products of Western civilization than Indian. Tilak, unlike them, was not prepared to reject India's own philosophy of life in order to imitate the philosophy of the British. He recognized that the social order in India needed a drastic reform but instead of judging Indian social practices by the standards of the West, he interpreted them and looked for their reform from Tndian standard. Aurobindo Ghosh exemplified this new approach in writing.
"Change of forms there may and will be, but the novel formation must be a new self-expression of self-creation developed from within : it must be characteristic of the spirit and not servilely borrowed from the embodiments of an alien narure."3
3 A. Ghosh : The Foundation of Indian Culture, pp. 8-9.
Tilak knew that there must be change, but also he knew that a philosophy must guide the remaking of India, and that the crucial question for India's future was whether that guide, that philosophy, would be Western or Indian in inspiration. He wrote : "It is difficult to see the way in darkness withour light or in a thick jungle without a guide." And he rejected the rationalism and scepticism of Western philosophy, when he remarked that "mere common sense without faith in religion is of no avail in searching for the truth." In the era of religious and philosophical renaissance of the Bharat-dharma, Tilak sought out the guidance of India's cwn philosophy. Undoub-
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tedly, bis initial motive was not to rediscover a theory of social and political action, but rather to find a satisfying personal philosophy of life. In his private life, he attempted to rediscover and re-apply the Indian philosophy of life. And his achievements in private and public life gave him a basis of building up a new theory of political action, obligation and ordering.
His fist task was to look behind the atrophied forms of religious orthodoxy add custom to find the values that had built the Indian civilization. Tilak recognized that "the edifice of the Hindu religion is not based on fragile ground like custom. Had it been so, it would have been levelled to the ground very long ago. It has lasted so long because it is founded on everlasting Truth, and eternal and pure doctrines relating to the Supreme Being."4 This truth was not recognized by the Westernized intellectuals in their obsession with the remaking of India according to their own image. But on the contrary, Tilak started with a faith in the spiritual purpose of human life, which the ancient Indian philosophy had taught. And he regarded spiritual good as the basis of social good. He wrote : "The structure of faith collapses with the collapse of faith in the existence of the soul. The doctrine of soullessness removed the need for faith. But when faith thus ceased to be an organic force binding society together, society was bound to be disrupted and individuals living in a community were sure to find their own different paths to happiness. The ties which bind society in one harmonious organization would be snapped, and no other binding principle would take their place. Moral ties would loosen and people would fall from good moral standards."5 His personal life was based on this 'structure of faith' and the moral purposefulness provided by this foundation remained with him throughout his life. No creed that doubted the existence of soul or the spiritual purpose of human life could inspire Tilak or his people ; thus the rediscovery of faith as the 'organic binding force' was the first principle in the emerging philosophy.
S. V. Bapat (ed.) : Gleanings from Tilak's Writings and Speeches, p. 346.
Kesari, Sept. 19, 1905.
From the idea of spiritual rediscovery Tilak, like Aurobindo Ghosh and others, developed a personal philosophy of life, firmly based on the knowledge that 'the individual and the Supreme Soul are one,' and that the 'ultimate goal of the soul is liberation'. He explored the wisdom of the Real and the relative worlds, the meaning of creation and the moral working out of the cosmic evolution towards liberation. From this foundation he understood the purpose of life, to live in accord with dharma, the integrating principle of the cosmic order. As Aurobindo Ghosh wrote of the Indian philosophy of life, "The idea of dharma is, next to, the idea of the infinite, its major chord ; dharma, next to spirit, is its foundation on
BAL GANGADHAR TILAK
life."4 Once these principles were accepted, Western rationalism and scepticism, materialism and utilitarianism could hold little appeal. It was from this basic understanding that he began his criticism of the Westernizers who would destroy this wisdom and these values. It taught them to love and respect, not the forms of atrophied orthodoxy, but rather the spirit of the total Indian Philosophy, the way of life and wisdom of life of the Indian civilization.
India's civilization and her history provided Tilak the new insight for his theory of social and political action. He felt that there was no reason for India to feel ashamed of her civilization when compared to the West. On the contrary, India should feel great pride. Indian values were different from but not inferior to Western values. The Westernized intellectuals, who abhorred India's value system and who wanted to change and remake India in an alien faith, were quite wrong, for as Tilak reminded them, "How can a1 man be proud of the greatness of his own nation if he feels no pride in his own religion ?" It was the Bharat-dharma that provided an understanding of the moral purposefulness of the universe, which is the necessary basis of a philosophy of life, and it provided them with a guide to concrete action in personal, social and political matters.
It was with this perspective and this inspiration that Tilak and other genuine nationalists began their battles for the creation of a new India. Relying on a realistic appraisal of the world as Tilak found it, he set about not to remake India in the image of an alien system of values, but to recreate India on the foundations of her own greatness. From an Indian philosophy of life he began to construct an Indian philosophy of social reforms and of politics that was to become the political theory of the Indian Independence Movement.
Belief in Arya-dhanna
6 A. Ghosh : The Foundations of Indian Culture, p. 63.
Tilak believed in Arya-dharma, but he was never a blind follower of orthodoxy. He did not ignore the obvious evils of the atrophied social system which were repellent to the social reformers and instigated them to take action. And he became the foremost of those in India who opposed the extremist measures of these social reformers. But the very fact that he was educated and that he refrained from joining the reformers indicated him as a defender of orthodoxy in the eyes of the extremists. He was condemned by the extremists as a reactionary, as the spokesman for backwardness. Nothing could be farther from the truth. He earnestly hoped to see the evils of the Indian social system removed, the entire system reformed, and to this end he brought forward his own concrete proposals for improving social conditions. He was a staunch advocate of progress. At the same time, he relentlessly fought against the grandiose schemes of the Westernt2ing reformers. Instead of schemes he
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wanted concrete programmes for the alleviation of real and pressing needs of the people. His reform work was direct, as in the case of the famine relief programme, the textile workers' assistance, the plague prevention work. Tilak was not an arm-chair reformer ; he was a worker with and for the people.
His objection to the social reformism of men like Mr. Justice Ranade and his disciple, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Professor Bhandar-kar, Byramji Malbari, Agarkar and the others, was twofold. First, without a full appreciation of the values that had been preserved and transmitted by the social system these men were willing to discard virtually everything, to remake India almost totally in the image of the West, and to base Indian social forms on the values they had learned from their Western education. To Tilak, it was folly, it was criminal, to banish everything created by India's civilization because Indian values and Indian religion did not coincide with the nineteenth-century European notions of materialism, rationalism and utilitarianism. He knew their obsession was contrary to common sense and good practice. He once wrote : "... .a number of our educated men began to accept uncritically the materialistic doctrines of the Westerners. Thus, we have the pathetic situation of the new generation making on their minds a carbon copy of the gross materialism of the West."7
And he went on to remind the social reformers that "our present downfall is due not to Hindu religion but to the fact that we have absolutely forsaken religion." Second, since the reformers could not inspire mass popular support for their imitative social reform programme, they sought to enforce reform through administrative fiat, to rely upon the coercive power of the state, the alien state of the British rule, to effect social change. From Tilak's viewpoint, to remake India in the image of the West would mean to destroy her greatness ; and to use the force of an alien rule to impose any kind of reform would be to make that itself immoral.
7 Kesari, September 19, 1905.
Reform, to Tilak's mind, must grow from within the people. Since he accepted this proposition as true, then it logically followed that attempts to coerce the community to accept them were absurd. Reform, according to him, would have to be based upon the value system of the people and not on the values taught to the Westernized few in an alien system of education. The answer lay, he believed, in popular education which must be initiated with an understanding of the classical values and must proceed to recreate the vitality of those values in the forms of social order. Since the classical values were thoroughly intermixed with popular religion, he believed that "religious eduction will first and foremost engage our attention." In this way a new spirit will be born in India. India need not copy from some other civilization when she can rely on the spirit of her
past greatness. As D. V. Athalye has written : "The difference was this, that while Ranade was prepared, if convenient, to coquette with religious sanction to social order, Tilak insisted that there should be no divorce between the two."8 Tilak proceeded to take action in accordance with his conviction
Because he wanted genuine reform and not simple imitation of Western life and manners, and because he believed that such reform must come from the people themselves and not from a foreign government, Tilak was led to advocate two causes which were to become his life's work. First, he fought to reawaken India to her past and to base her future greatness on her past glories. Second, knowing well that real progress can only be made by a self-governing people, knowing that moral progress can only be made through moral and democratic decisions, knowing, therefore, that Swaraj or self-rule was the prerequisite of real, social, political, economic, cultural and spiritual progress, Tilak began to think in terms of the restoration of Swaraj. The social reformers were prepared to criticize almost everything Indian, to imitate the West in the name of improvement, and to rely upon the power of a foreign government to bring about this improvement. They were convinced that only by social reform would they earn political reform ; that, therefore, social reform must precede political reform. Tilak argued just the contrary, that political reform must precede social reform, for it is only popular self-government that is moral government, that it is only moral government that can create moral social change ; and, therefore, self-rule is necessary, and the first object which must be pursued is the awakening of the people to their heritage of self-rule.
8 I>. V. Athalye : The Life of Lokmanya Tilak, p. 54.
Tilak's approach being more realistic and founded on solid moral values, he could perceive more clearly the root causes of the Indian social evils than did his social reform opponents. He felt that it was not simply the forms and practices of Indian society which had to be changed if meaningful social reforms were to be brought about. He sensed that abusive social practices were the direct outgrowth of the 'spirit of orthodoxy' which filled the forms of social order and inertly resisted change. This spirit had resulted from a thousand years of instability, defeat, foreign overiordship, defensiveness and inflexibility. Therefore, effective reform, Tilak believed, must ultimately depend upon a reawakening of the true, vital, life-affirming spirit of the Indian people and civilization. Instead of criticizing social form as the great evil, he began his battle with the atrophied spirit of orthodoxy while still engaged in his battle with the Westernized reforms. He wrote : ". . . Just as old and orthodox opinions (and their holders the Pandits, etc.) are onesided, so the new English educated 'reformers' are also onesided and dogmatic. The old Castries and Pandits do not know the new circumstances whereas
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the newly educated class of reformers are ignorant of the traditions and traditional philosophy of Hinduism. Therefore, a proper knowledge of the old traditions and philosophies must be imparted to the newly educated classes, and the Pandits and Sastries must be given information about the newly changed and changing circumstances."* His battle was not characterized by abhorrence for this old spirit because he understood it and the role it had played. The spirit was locked up in forms, rituals, customs that had become virtually dead things. The orthodox spirit had served its purpose because it had transmitted classical values to a new generation who could understand them and bring about the necessary rebirth and reapplication of those values.
The degraded aspects of the spirit of orthodoxy were lethargy, indolence, exclusiveness and inaction. They had fed on disunity and divisiveness born of defensiveness and rigidity, and from this had arisen casteism in all its worst manifestations, defeatism and fatalism, the loss of the ideal of harmonious social co-operation, of courage and of self-respect—in a word, the dynamics of the classical philosophy of life had been perverted into negation and passivity. This spirit, Tilak believed, was harmful to India's progress, and it was with this spirit that he did battle. Atrophied orthodoxy had no religious justification. Its spirit was in part the perversion and negation of the world and of the classical concept of the fulfilment of the purpose of life, the union of man with his Creator.