How Western Materialism Erodes Hindu Ethics: What Pramatha Nath Bose Said
Pramatha Nath Bose, the father of Indian Geology was also a devout Sanatani. In this forgotten essay written in 1914, he warns how the Western world was distorting the profound Hindu system of ethics
PRAMATHA NATH BOSE was the Iron Man of India in the literal sense. He is also known as the father of Indian geology and palaeontology, and one of his distinguished pupils, Sri B.P. Radhakrishna—another pioneering geologist—has written a heartfelt eulogy on this luminary.
Pramatha Nath Bose set up the first-ever soap factory in India and was the first scientist to discover Petroleum reserves in Assam. He seeded the Bengal Technical Institute, which is today known as the Jadhavpur University.
In 1903, Pramatha Nath Bose began surveying various parts of (undivided) Madhya Pradesh and Odisha and attained the pinnacle of his career: the discovery of iron ore deposits in the hills of Gorumahisani in the state of Mayurbhanj. He dashed off a letter to J.N. Tata about this monumental finding and thus pioneered the setting up of one of the world’s largest steel giants: the Tata Steel factory at Jamshedpur.
But there was a profounder side to Pramatha Nath Bose: he was a hero of the modern Indian Renaissance. At a young age, Bose was deeply influenced by stalwarts like Keshub Chandra Sen and was a friend of Rabindranath Tagore. Till the end of his life, Pramatha Bose held an abiding reverence for the Hindu civilizational ethos and was wedded to its traditions. To borrow a term from geology, he delighted lifelong, in savouring the inexhaustible reserves of its goldmine. The outcome was a four-volume magnum opus titled A History Of Hindu Civilisation During British Rule. The volumes remain eminently readable, still a valuable source-book documenting the lasting, deleterious impact of British rule on Hindu society, to put it mildly.
We have unearthed one such long form essay from his annals dealing with a fundamental facet of our civilization: Hindu ethics. Written in 1914, it is an eloquent commentary cum analysis of the disastrous transformation that Western materialism was bringing to the Hindu ethical and moral psyche conditioned by millennia of Sanatana philosophy and proven ways of leading a well-rounded life.
Starting with this, we will publish some excerpts from Pramath Nath Bose’s essay.
Hindu Ethics Under Western Influence
I HAVE IN MY Epochs of Civilisation, endeavoured to show that the civilisations in which the material element prevails over the spiritual have been short-lived. The survival of a civilisation depends upon its attainment of equilibrium between the cosmic forces making for material progress and the non-cosmic forces leading to higher culture, especially ethical culture. The life of a civilisation after is has passed from one epoch to another depends upon the maintenance of that equilibrium.
The equilibrium is moving or dynamic. It is constantly disturbed by various causes, internal as well as external. The continuance of the life of a civilisation depends upon the restoration of the equilibrium after such disturbance, though not in the same position as before.
The Western contact has disturbed the equipoised condition of the Hindu civilisation ethically as in various other ways. Ever since the Hindu civilisation attained the highest stage, self-sacrificing benevolence has been held as the most estimable of all virtues. Benevolence not only towards all humans, but towards all other sentient creatures. It has been extolled alike by Hindus, Buddhists and Jainas. There is no virtue so insistently inculcated by them as that of altruism. The inculcation was not confined to the expressions of pious wishes and precepts. But there is abundant evidence to show that an earnest endeavour was made to realise them in life during the highest stage of Hindu civilisation. Since the close of that stage whenever Hindus have strayed away from those noble ethical and spirittual ideals of their forefathers, reformers like Ramananda, Nanak, Kabir and Chaitanya have tried to bring them back to those ideals.
Self-sacrificing benevolence being enjoined in the daily practices of the Hindus has become deeply ingrained in the normal Hindu constitution. Not a twig is to be cut for making a toothbrush without a propitiatory hymn to the Divinity of the Forest.
Do read the full, brilliant essay!