Missionary Work

In the Upanishads we find the teachers insisting upon the glory in the spreading of spiritual knowledge. In Taittireya Upanishad the very parting advice of the teacher to the taught contains an oft reiterated injunction that he must practice not only the study of the scripture himself, but must continuously spend himself in carrying the torch of knowledge among the masses. This has been prescribed as an imperative duty for all Brahmins by the Rishis to give this knowledge to those who have the spiritual thirst to live a fuller and more dynamic life. It is useless to impart this knowledge to those who have no taste for it. If a student himself has not any urgency for a total revolution in himself, he cannot be goaded to live the divine life.

The fathers of our culture the great Rishis, knowing that philosophy is the basis of any culture, had urged that the students of the Scriptures must not rob this know¬ledge and keep it to themselves, but must convey it with free mobility to others. In this way alone the culture can be successfully brought into the dark chambers of the people’s life.
In Hinduism there is no proselytism—it is true. We do not believe in compelling others to have faith in the Eternal Reality. Compulsion becomes a necessity where intellectual conversion is not possible. Since we have got a completely logical and entirely convincing philo¬sophy, which can generate in us our faith in the ultimate, compulsion is not needed. Human intellect has intrinsi¬cally such an honesty of conviction, that once it has understood some way-of-life, and has accepted certain values of life as a result of its understanding, it cannot but live its own convictions. It is only in this sense that the Hindu Philosophy and ancient teachers discarded proselytism and forceful conversion as barbarous methods not fit to the dignity of any truly spiritual system.

Unfortunately this glorious creed has been so thoroughly misunderstood in India that we have long ago stopped our missionary work in propagating the Immortal Truth of our inimitable culture. Since the Christian missionaries act with a sole ambition of conversion, the educated Indian in his thoughtlessness has from his childhood on, associated these two ideas together in his mind. When he has understood the saner ideas that proselytism is a crime against man and God, he seems to understand that missionary work was never contemplated by the Rishis. The Geeta indeed gives the lie to such a fallacious conclusion. To spread the idea among the people, to carry the torch of knowledge earlier lit up at the master’s Feet, to convey it far to provide light wherever there is darkness, to keep oneself ever bubbl¬ing with an inspired enthusiasm to pour out one’s own convictions into the hearts of others—in short, Vidhya-dan is in Hinduism, a. duly religiously imposed upon all students. Knowledge hoarded and secreted brings about a sadder poverty than the wealth aggrandized and cornered in a society.

The Geetacharya emphasizes that such an individual is “dearest to my heart, as I find none equal to him in the world”. Not only that there is none to compare with him among the present generation, but there shall never be anyone even in future times to come so dear to the Lord as such an individual, who spends his time in spreading the knowledge of what little he has understood from the Scriptures. A preacher is sacred in the Hindu lore.

It is not necessary in this context that we must first become ourselves masters of the entire Geeta-knowledge. Whatever one has understood, one must immediately, with an anxious love, learn to give it out to those who are ignorant of even that much. Also one must sincerely and honestly try to live the principles in one’s own life— “Such a man is dearest to Me”.