Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, fully Sir or Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

Radhakrishnan, fully Sir or Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

Indian Advaita Vedantist Philosopher, Writer and Politician, Vice President and later President of India

Author Quotes

There is a danger in giving only carefully chosen extracts. We are likely to give what is easy to read and omit what is difficult, or give what is agreeable to our views and omit what is disagreeable. It is wise to study the upaniShads as a whole, their striking insights as well as their commonplace assumptions. Only such a study will be historically valuable. I have therefore given in full the classical upaniShads, those commented on or mentioned by shankara. The other upaniShads are of a later date and are sectarian in character. They represent the popular gods, Shiva, Vishnu, Shakti, as manifestations of the Supreme Reality. They are not parts of the original Veda, are of much later origin and are not therefore as authoritative as the classical upaniShads. If they are all to be included, it would be difficult to find a Publisher for so immense a work.

We have had in our country peaceful co-existence of different religion. It is not mere passive co-existence but an active fellowship, a close inter-relation of the best of different religions. Co-existence is the first step and fraternity is the goal.

There is life in movement. Our Dharma is Sanatana, eternal, not in the sense that it is a fixed deposit but in the sense that it is perpetually changing. Its uninterrupted continuity is its Sanatana character. So even with regard to our social conditions it is essential for us to move forward.

We have spiritual facts and their interpretations by which they are communicated to others, sruti or what is heard, and sm?ti or what is remembered. ?a?karaequates them with pratyak?a or intuition and anumana or inference. It is the distinction between immediacy and thought. Intuitions abide, while interpretations change.

There is no more inspiring task for the student of Indian thought than to set forth some phases of its spiritual wisdom and bring them to bear on our own life. Let us, in the words of Socrates, 'turn over together the treasures that wise men have left us, glad if in so doing we make friends with one another.'

We invent by intuition, though we prove by logic.

'These are really the thoughts of all men in all ages and lands; they are not original with me. If they are not yours as much as mine, they are nothing or next to nothing', said Walt Whitman. The upaniShads deal with questions which arise when men begin to reflect seriously and attempt answers to them which are not very different, except in their approach and emphasis from what we are now inclined to accept. This does not mean that the message of upaniShads which is as true today as ever, commits us to the different hypotheses about the structure of the world and the physiology of man. We must make a distinction between the message of the upaniShads and their mythology. The latter is liable to correction by advances in science. Even this mythology becomes intelligible if we place ourselves as far as possible at the viewpoint of those who conceived it. Those parts of the upaniShads which seem to us today to be trivial, tedious and almost unmeaning, should have had value and significance at the time they were composed.

We must recognize that violence is an unfortunate breach of community, and devise other ways of establishing satisfactory relationship.

Those who condemn Indian culture as useless are ignorant of it, while those who commend it as perfect are ignorant of any other.

We must respect our own dignity as rational beings and thus diminish the power of fraud. It is better to be free than be a slave, better to know than to be ignorant. It is reason that helps us to reject what is falsely taught and believed about God, that He is a detective officer or a capricious despot or a glorified schoolmaster. It is essential that we should subject religious beliefs to the scrutiny of reason.

Though the world has changed considerably in its outward material aspect, means of communication, scientific inventions, etc., there has not been any great change in its inner spiritual side. The old forces of hunger and love, and the simple joys and fears of the heart, belong to the permanent stuff of human nature. The true interests of humanity, the deep passions of religion, and the great problems of philosophy, have not been superseded as material things have been. Indian thought is a chapter of the history of the human mind, full of vital meaning for us. The ideas of great thinkers are never obsolete. They animate the progress that seems to kill them. The most ancient fancies sometimes startle us by their strikingly modern character, for insight does not depend on modernity.

We today live in a society which is giving way to the inexhorable claim of a new order. We cannot stay the advance of time. If we clasp to our heart something that is past, if we cling to something that is defunct, we will be left behind.

To all appearance this is a mere accident. But when I look at the series of accidents that have shaped my life, I am persuaded that there is more in this life than meets the eye. Life is not a mere chain of physical causes and effects. Chance seems to form the surface of reality, but deep down other forces are at work. If the universe is a living one, if it is spiritually alive, nothing in it is merely accidental. The moving finger writes and having writ moves on.

Wherever men love reason, shun darkness, turn over towards light, praise virtue; despise meanness, hate vulgarity, kindle sheer beauty, wherever minds are sensitive, hearts generous, spirits free, there is your country. Let us adopt that loyalty to humanity instead of a sectional devotion to one part of the human race.

The upaniShads describe to us the life of spirit, the same yesterday, to-day and forever. But our apprehensions of the life of spirit, the symbols by which we express it, change with time. All systems of orthodox Indian thought accept the authoritativeness of the Vedas, but give themselves freedom in their interpretation. This variety of interpretation is made possible by the fact that the upaniShads are not the thoughts of a single philosopher or a school of philosophers who follow a single tradition. They are the teachings of thinkers who were interested in different aspects of the philosophical problem, and therefore offer solutions of problems which vary in their interest and emphasis. There is thus a certain amount of fluidity in their thought which has been utilized for the development of different philosophical systems. Out of the wealth of suggestions and speculations contained in them, different thinkers choose elements for the construction of their own systems, not infrequently even through a straining of the texts. Though the upaniShads do not work out a logically coherent system of metaphysics, they give us a few fundamental doctrines which stand out as the essential teaching of the early upaniShads. These are recapitulated in the brahma sUtra.

To be ignorant is not the special prerogative of man; to know that he is ignorant is his special privilege.

While no tradition coincides with experience, every tradition is essentially unique and valuable. While all traditions are of value, none is finally binding.

The upaniShads represent a great chapter in the history of the human spirit and have dominated Indian philosophy, religion and life for three thousand years. Every subsequent religious movement has had to show itself to be in accord with their philosophical statements. Even doubting and denying spirits found in them anticipations of their hesitancies, misgivings and negations. They have survived many changes, religious and secular, and helped many generations of men to formulate their views on the chief problems of life and existence.

To respond to spiritual teaching, we require the spiritual disposition.

While the triumph of mechanical inventions provides a common basis for the civilization of the future, the break-down of traditional systems of thought, belief, and practice is the necessary preparation for the building of a spiritual unity. The leaven is at work among all the peoples, especially among the youth who are unwilling to be mere clay in the hands of others, be they ever so old or wise. There is a quickened consciousness, a sense of something in adequate and unsatisfactory in the ideas and conceptions we have held and the groping after new values. Dissolution is in the air. The old forms of faith are tottering. Among the thoughtful men of every creed and country there is a note of spiritual wistfulness and expectancy.

The upaniShads which base their affirmations on spiritual experience are invaluable for us, as the traditional props of faith, the infallible scripture, miracle and prophecy are no longer available. The irreligion of our times is largely the product of the supremacy of religious technique over spiritual life. The study of the upaniShads may help to restore to fundamental things of religion that reality without which they seem to be meaningless.

Truth can never be perceived except by those who are in love with goodness.

The Vedanta ethics does not ask us to sit with folded hands or, like the mystic, look down on earth or up to heaven, at nothing in particular.

War with its devastated fields and ruined cities, with its millions of dead and more millions of maimed and wounded, its broken-hearted and defiled women and its starved children bereft of their natural protection, its hate and atmosphere of lies and intrigue, is an outrage on all that is human. So long as this devil-dance does not disgust us, we cannot pretend to be civilized. It is no good preventing cruelty to animals and building hospitals for the sick and poor houses for the destitute so long as we willing to mow down masses of men by machine-guns and poison non-combatants, including the aged and the infirm, women and children ? and all for what? For the glory of God and the honor of the nation!

The Vedanta is not a religion, but religion itself in its most universal and deepest significance.

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Radhakrishnan, fully Sir or Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
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Indian Advaita Vedantist Philosopher, Writer and Politician, Vice President and later President of India