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Early Writings

THE TRUE ENEMY OF FREEDOM

India, 1929

Inner and outer freedom cannot be separated. Greater than any country is life; and it is only when a country has realised and adjusted itself to the deeper laws of life that it is, or can be, really free. From this point of view, there is no absolutely free country today. There are everywhere merely degrees of freedom. But in every case where political freedom exists, there will also be found co-existing with it a certain freedom from the kind of unreal restrictions which curb and confine the spontaneous and creative flow of life. The true enemy of freedom is dead tradition; living at second-hand; the enslavement of the life of today to the worn-out formulas of a past age. And there is hardly a country in the world upon which the dead hand of tradition lies so heavily as it does on India. This is the true Indian problem. Solve it, and everything else which keeps India back today will melt away like the morning mists. The Law of Life cannot be cheated. The race or country which has not liberated its inner life cannot hope for freedom in the real sense of the word. And even if it get what seems like outer freedom, the fruit, when tasted, will be found, for all its outward fairness, to be dust and ashes within.

This is a hard lesson and, perhaps, an unwelcome one. But the true hope for India lies in the fact that, being forced by circumstances to learn this lesson in order to gain what she wants, she will emerge from the ordeal all the more fully purified through the severity of the struggle through which she must pass. The Soul of India is a great Soul in chains. Liberate it, and there will arise a giant among Nations; for there is no doubt that a regenerated India would, and will, do much for the regeneration of the whole world. We have a splendid spiritual heritage; but it has grown stale and profitless through the lack of the one thing which alone can keep any tradition fresh and profitable; and that is the Spirit of real affection and consideration for others. The most potent survivals from our immemorial past are now what? Crystallised cruelties and selfishnesses, infant marriage, the heartless restrictions which we place on widows, our treatment of women generally, the whole system of untouchability; what are these but matters in which the dead weight of custom has crushed out of us the ordinary decent feelings which should sweeten and harmonise the life of human beings? And what is caste itself but a system of organised selfishness -the desire of every man to feel himself different from others, and to be conscious of possessing something which others do not possess. These and many similar things are our heritage today; and it is under the weight of this heritage that we are groaning. But -and this is the important point- they are not the whole of our heritage, but only the dead part of it. Buried underneath it is India's true heritage, the living part, the real inheritance from the past. And this is none other than that genius for Liberation, if I may call it so, which is at the root of the Indian nature. Strip away all accretions from the Soul of India, and you will find, still strong and living, a profound detachment and a profound sense of Reality. It is this deeper Soul of India which has to be revived today; and it is this which, if it could be revived and given freedom for self-expression, would effect that miracle of regeneration of which I have spoken. For to such a Spirit nothing is impossible; and, once released, it would carry all before it. Not only would it bring political freedom, as one of its minor and natural results, but it would, in one great act of Self-assertion, make India what, I feel, she is destined to be -namely, the spiritual centre and dynamo of the World.

And what is necessary for this awakening? In the first instance, true sincerity and the capacity to look our failings frankly in the face; and in the second instance, the passion of discontent which must arise from such a clear-sighted vision. And after this must come the resolute endeavour, at all costs, to set our house in order and, whenever necessary, to set present needs above old restrictions. The time for dragging a lengthening chain is over. We must awake to the shame of having sides to our daily life, which we cannot exhibit to the coolly-appraising eye of the outsider. We must recognise how futile it is to seek to cover these up with words, when the eye of the World-Spirit is all the time calmly regarding them and judging us in their light. In short, we have got to bring our India back into harmony with reality. And only when we have begun to do this, and mean to go on doing it, can her true Liberation come.

In all this, there is much that we can learn from other Nations. Let us not be too proud to learn. In refinement and cleanliness of physical life, in laboursaving devices, in social freedom, in constructive organisation, in honourable cooperation, and in an impersonal sense of duty, there are many lessons which the West can teach us; and in proportion as our efforts at Self-perfection are genuine, we shall be ready and glad to learn, and when we have learnt, we too can teach. For there are lessons which a spiritually reawakened India could impart, which are at present outside the horizon of western thought. More than any other nation we could show mankind the dependence of physical life upon a larger invisible spiritual order. More than any other Nation could we show it that happiness lies, not in possessions, but in harmony between the outer life and the life of the spirit within. But, in order to teach, we have first to make good our right to teach; and this we can only do by a wholesale reference of every detail of our National life, not to some set of immemorial injunctions, but to common sense and the right feeling of today.

This is the first step in the direction of true liberation, which, I feel, is necessary for India.

Early Writings

THE TRUE ENEMY OF FREEDOM
India, 1929

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