The Pattern of Life


Can one department of life be entirely dissociated from another? Thus, for instance, politics cannot be rightly conceived as performing its own legitimate functions without sociology, and the problems of the social servant have their political aspects, which are by no means negligible. Again, here in India, because of the presence of different religious creeds, there is an attempt, surely understandable, to dissociate religion from social service; while in Western countries, because the power of theology and sectarian fanaticism is on the wane, to retain their influence most churches resort to programmes of social service.

The attempt at arbitrary division of life into numerous departments often strikes us as perhaps the main cause of that which is recognized on all hands as the failure of our civilization. Ours is an age of specialists; in medicine, in science, in psychology, we have specialists of many degrees; and so in other departments. The spirit of the age focuses itself in every man and woman and in each of us is raging a conflict—conflict of loyalties, of duties, of principles; the resulting confusion is greater even than that conflict. The Pattern of Life is disturbed out of recognition; the Path of Life is lost in the jungle of that conflict and confusion. To find that Path, to restore that Pattern, is the task before us all; and none is so poor as cannot lend a helping hand.

Life has a pattern; a single glance at Nature reveals that fact. In fleeting snow-flakes as in enduring crystals, in every bud and blossom, in every bird on its wings, in the deadly reptile and in the beast of burden—everywhere we see design of form and colour, pattern woven by the infallible hand of Life itself. To quote the American poet W. H. Carruth, "Some call it Evolution, others call it God"; but call it what we will, and whether we reverence Nature or Nature's omnipresent God, the one unmistakable truth is there—the Pattern of Life exists.

The second fact brought to our notice by the joint study of history and philosophy is that it is only in the human kingdom that the Pattern is lost. Look for a moment at the animal kingdom. There the Pattern of Life, working through the laws of heredity, is maintained in every species, generation after generation. But the sign of progress and evolution in the kingdom of man is—change. Growth and transformation, rapid and incessant, marks all our activities, and the result is the covering over of old foundations, loss of old familiar moorings. The spirit of experiment and adventure, man's great privilege and prerogative, is both a blessing and a curse; nay, we might say is a blessing because it is a curse.

To find the lost pattern of Life in our human kingdom it is necessary to destroy the heresy of separateness. We must try to see life as one whole, as a unit. Let us not divide life into sacred and secular; into political and social; into religious aned scientific. Let us not separate home from club, school from hostel, the place of worship from the place of business. But we cannot succeed in seeing life as a whole unless the mind's eye has been trained to observe carefully, nay more, to penetrate the surface appearance of things. The instinct of the animal which enables it to follow the Pattern of Life, makes it do so in a servile manner. If we want to observe a real servile state, let us turn to the animal kingdom. But the human intelligence, with its power of free-will, of self-choice and of self-determination, has the advantage and disadvantage which the adventure of life brings—loss of old familiar moorings.

To the mind's eye must be brought the aid of intuition, which in the philosophy of the Bhagavad-Gita is named Buddhi, higher intellect, superior to ordinary human mind. That which Krishna describes as Buddhi-Yoga in the second chapter of the Gita, is the gospel par excellence of the social servant, using that term in its broadest sense. In labouring and serving and sacrificing for our fellowmen we need more than mind-intelligence; we need the vision of the Higher Intellect, the Pure Reason of Kant, the Buddhi of the Gita. In perceiving Life as one unit, one whole, though it is a perpetual motion, a mighty flux, we destroy that which is named the heresy of separateness. We see the kingdom of humans as one whole, in which sub-kingdoms and species exist; but unless we notice the value of the whole we are apt to lose ourselves in the parts. The Pattern of Life is one and the same for the entire human race.

An example will make it clear: the Pattern of the human body is definite; there are not two designs for the corpus, only one. All humans have ten toes and ten fingers, two eyes and two ears. The number of orifices, of senses and organs, is identical in each. Leaving aside freaks of nature for whom also there is adequate explanation, all human bodies are built on one pattern. But there are many kinds and types of bodies. If we classify according to ethnology, we have racial divisions—we have yellow and white, brown and red bodies; or if we divide according to intelligence, we have dull and sensitive types, irrespective of races; again, if we separate them according to ethical standards, we have intelligent liers and truthful savages; and so on. Doctors of medicine will classify the human body in one way, the educationist in another. No two human beings are ever identically the same. Now we see what has emerged as a principle in our study: Unity in diversity. The great problem of the Greeks—One in many and many in One—is the very same problem that the Vedic hymns and the Upanishads discuss—the One Brahman and its myriad expressions in an endless series.

The spiritual basis of any social service should be its starting point. All human beings are equal—as souls, not in bodily development, nor in moral character, nor in mental evolution. All of us are diverse in strength and sensitiveness of body, have different depths of moral stamina and different breadths of mental outlook, but at the back of these, at the very core of our being, is the principle of identity. Says the Bhagavad-Gita:

There dwelleth in the heart of every creature, O Arjuna, the Master—Ishwara—who by his magic power causeth all things and creatures to revolve mounted upon the universal wheel of time. Take sanctuary with him alone, O son of Bharata, with all thy soul; by his grace thou shalt obtain supreme happiness, the eternal place. (XVIII, 61-62)