My search for truth

by Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

(Excerpts from S. Radhakrishnan's work titled, "Religion in Transition")

... I cannot account for the fact that from the time I knew myself I have had firm faith in the reality of an unseen world behind the flux of phenomena, a world which we apprehend not with the senses but with the mind, and even when I was faced by grave difficulties, this faith has remained unshaken. A meditative frame of mind is perhaps responsible for my love of loneliness. Side by side with my outward activities, there is in me an inner life of increasing solitude in which I love to linger. Books, the vistas they unveil, and the dreams they awaken, have been from the beginning my constant and unfailing companions. I am not quite at home in the conventional social functions by which life's troubles are tempered to most of us. When I am in company, unless it be with one or two who know me well, it is with an effort that I get along. But I have an almost uncanny knack of putting myself en rapport with any individual, high or low, old or young, if the need arises. While I am essentially shy and lonely, I pass for a social and sociable man. My withdrawn nature and social timidity have given me a reputation that I am difficult to know. Again, I am said to be cold and strong-willed, while I know that I am the opposite of it. I am capable of strong and profound emotions, which I generally tend to conceal. I am nervously organized, sensitive, and highstrung.

... I think, decisions of my life have been taken under a sort of plan, and prepare, and yet when the choice is made, I have a feeling that an invisible hand has been guiding me for purposes other than my own. I do not, however, pretend that I enjoy the special care of providence. Such a feeling, if it means more than the simple truth that the Supreme has an individual interest in and a delicate care for human beings, that its love is individual, immediate, and intimate, is an irrational prejudice. While I attribute the little success I have achieved to this luck or guidance, I do not want to shift the blame for my failures to ill luck or circumstances. My achievements are not entirely my own, but my mistakes are in large part due to my own folly or weakness.

... Hinduism as a progressive historical movement still in the making. Its adherents are not custodians of a deposit, but runners carrying a lighted torch. The weaknesses of the Hindu faith which have drawn the institution into disgrace and are today blocking the way for social advance are due to a confusion between tradition and truth. We must preserve the spirit of truth which will guide us into all truth. God does not say 'I am Tradition', but he says, 'I am Truth'. Truth is greater than its greatest teachers. We must realise that the history of the race is strewn with customs and institutions which were invaluable at first and deadly afterwards. Gross abuses which still survive require to be cut off with an unsparing hand. Hinduism insists on the upward striving, not only in the sphere of morals but in that of intellect. It is not to be regarded as either pessimistic or fatalistic. The law of karma affirms the implicit presence of the past in the present. When we unconsciously or mechanically follow the impulses of the past, we are not exercising our freedom. But we are free when our personal subject becomes the ruling center.

... It is essential to awaken in one's pupils a feeling of need for a silent hour, a time of pure refreshment for heart and spirit, for self-communion, which will help them to collect their thoughts, reassemble their personalities and find themselves. In that silence we hear the still voices of the soul with its plaintive cry of the prisoner for freedom, of the wanderer from home, the cry of the finite for the infinite. Religion is what we do with ourselves when we are alone. In every one of us is a secret shrine where no one could intrude, to which we must retire as often as possible and discover what our true self is as distinct from the appearance we present to the world outside.

... The nearer we are to the awakening, the more desolate do we feel. The soul is laden with the sense of guilt, of the feeling that one ought to have done better, and with a longing for liberation. The sadness tends to set in the direction of seeking a possible solution, a true friend, who can guide the soul, as parents guide their children. Blessed are they that mourn, that suffer and weep. The heart that aches is the heart which loves. The more tender it is, the more does it suffer. The grief of the large-hearted is too deep even for tears. We can buy immunity from suffering only by giving up life's greatest good, by hardening the heart. ... It is by suffering that we understand. The condition of true human life is to suffer pain and endure loneliness. Only those who live outward lives without being touched to their inward depths can escape suffering.

... It is not easy to know the difference between good men and bad. Ideas may be theoretically divided into good and bad, but not men and women, for each of us contains, in himself or herself, in varying degrees, the good and the bad, the high and the low, the true and the false. Besides, society has queer notions about right and wrong. Unorthodox personal relationships are wrong, while acts involving whole nations in war are right. Cruelty, treachery, and exploitation are condoned, while loving the wrong person not wisely but too well is condemned, though the latter is only a misfortune, not a crime. It is easier to make saints out of libertines than out of prudes and Pharisees. The infinite pathos of life calls for infinite understanding.

... The friend takes the place of an analyst, who succeeds in removing the blind urges and fixations by exposing them to view. Some are silent, because they have nothing to say; others are silent because they have no one to say it to. To a true friend, even the most perverse will pour out their hearts and thus get relieved. He is not afraid to face the dismal reality and see it as it really is. For the soul of man is essentially a lovable thing. No human being is innately wicked or incapable of improvement. No one can succeed in stifling the soul or drugging or deceiving it for all time. The best side of a human being is his real side, his true self. Such an attitude to life makes one turn a blind eye to human inertia and weakness. 'Love', says St. Paul, 'is never glad when others go wrong, love is gladdened by goodness, always slow to expose, always eager to believe the best, always hopeful, always patient'.

It is one of the hardest things to criticise the actions of those of whom we are fond, but it is what one expects and longs for from true friendship. Every time the courage is found, the bond becomes stronger. A true friend not only seeks and inquires, but probes and pierces, digs his fists into the heart, though this process of ruthless unveiling or pitiless exposure is most painful and costing. But then the only way to attain peace of mind and inward harmony is by means of knowledge and adjustment. We must be completely sincere with ourselves and then adjust ourselves to circumstances. We must never lie to ourselves. If it is true that we do not know perfectly until we love perfectly, it is also true that we do not love perfectly until we know perfectly.