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SHORTER WORKS — 1910-1950

The News of the Month

Mr. Tilak's Book on the Gita

In an interview with the representative of an Indian journal Mr. Bal Gangadhar Tilak has given a brief account of the work on the Gita which he has been writing during his six years' internment in Mandalay. He begins:–

“You know that the Gita is regarded generally as a book inculcating quietistic Vedanta or Bhakti. For myself, I have always regarded it as a work expounding the principles of human conduct from a Vedantic ethical point of view, that is, reconciling the philosophy of active life with the philosophy of knowledge and the philosophy of devotion to God.”

Mr. Tilak then expresses his belief that before Shankara and Ramanuja, the great Southern philosophers, wrote their commentaries, the Gita was understood in its natural sense, but from that time forward artificial and sectarian interpretations prevailed and the element of Karmayoga in the Song Celestial was disregarded. His book is intended to restore this natural sense and central idea of the famous Scripture. It will contain a word for word rendering preceded by an introduction of some fifteen chapters in which he discusses the Vedanta and the ethics of the Gita and compares the ethical philosophy of Western thinkers with that of the Indian schools of thought. Although the book will be published first in Marathi, we are promised a version also in English.

We look forward with interest to a work which, proceeding from a scholar of such eminence and so acute an intellect, one especially whose name carries weight with all Hindus, must be considered an event of no small importance in Indian religious thought. We welcome it all the more because it seems to be conceived in the same free and synthetic spirit as animates this Review. It is a fresh sign of the tendency towards an increasingly liberal movement of religious opinion in orthodox India, the dissolution of the old habit of unquestioning deference to great authorities and the consequent rediscovery of the true catholic sense of the ancient Scriptures.

Those who have studied the Gita with a free mind, still more those who have tried to live it, cannot doubt for a moment the justice of Mr. Tilak's point of view. But is not the tendency of the Gita towards a supra-ethical rather than an ethical activity? Ethics is, usually, the standardising of the highest current social ideals of conduct; the Song Celestial, while recognising their importance, seeks to fix the principle of action deeper in the centre of a man's soul and points us ultimately to the government of our outward life by the divine self within.

Arya. 08.1914