The creator of the Epochal Literature is a sage (rśi).
- The sage goes on establishing coordination and adjustment, stage by stage, among time, space and person.
The creator of the Coastal Literature is a seer (kavi).
- The seer goes on establishing contact between time, space and person and the Entity which transcends all of them.
Epochal Literature will give expression to the minute details of common people’s daily lives:
- their hopes and aspirations
- sorrows and joys
This is done through the medium of language that will easily touch their hearts.
- The creator of Epochal Literature will have to give maximum importance to the people’s popular language.
But if the people’s language is not given much importance in Coastal Literature, it will not cause much inconvenience.
If Tulsidása in his Rámacharita Mánasa and Cańd́iidása in his Padávalii had used the then scholarly Saḿskrta language, could they have wielded so much influence over the people?
Similarly, the popular language of any part of the world as a vehicle of Epochal Literature does not carry very much weight in another part of the world, or with people speaking another language.
There are many well-written English and Bengali books about the history and culture of Rajasthan.
- But how much can the people of Rajasthan, speaking Rajasthani language, be benefited by them?
The poetic genius of Michael Madhusudhan Dutt could have produced remarkable English compositions.
- but the marked extent to which his genius found expression in the Bengali language, the way a wonderful Epochal Literature came into being – perhaps could not have been achieved in the English language.
It is not that Epochal Literature has to be written in the popular language alone, but the litterateurs should write their compositions in their own mother-tongues as much as possible.
The demand for popular language is not so very strong or rigid in respect to Coastal Literature.
We should not be unduly concerned if books about any subtle theory or principle, or any complicated sciences, are written only in the principal languages of the world. If they are written in the popular local language, there would be only a few who could study them.
But those litterateurs who think that their works will be less in demand if produced in their local languages, and thus instead create literature in the more widely known languages, cannot be called true litterateurs, for they lack the mentality of moving together with all.
Rather it will be more proper to call such writers pot-boilers or literary traders.
Symbol of the People’s Hopes
It is through clashes that power finds expression.
In a life which is averse to fight – where the urge for fight is feeble – there life’s expression also remains vague and indistinct.
Human intellect is indeed awakened through various kinds of natural, social, psychic and economic struggles. Those who seek the awakening of their intellects should not be afraid of struggle. Each of the social, economic and psychological principles of human life keep on changing from age to age.
Endowed with the strength of past experiences, human beings seek to create their future wealth: this is an undeniable truth. With their eye on the future, those who try to create something by cutting off the past, will utterly fail, for the creation of literature or art can only justify its existence by maintaining its relation between the past and the future.
That art or literature which suddenly appears also vanishes equally abruptly, leaving everything in turmoil. Due to changes in the wake of its sudden appearance and disappearance, society has no doubt achieved some gains and sustained some losses, but we cannot accept these changes as the fulfilment of any constructive endeavour.
Litterateurs are the seers of truth, and so naturally we cannot expect anything irrelevant from them. We want to see in their contributions keenness of intellect, wise discrimination, and the sweet touch of a sympathetic heart.
Where the society is caught in the whirlpool of superstitions and prejudices – where it has lost its vision in the darkness of ignorance – there litterateurs and artists will have to come forward, even by taking risks. They will have to show the path to others with a flaming torch in hand. It is not proper for them to remain inert and inactive, out of fear of stumbling.
It is only through waging a ceaseless struggle against all opposing forces that they will lead humanity forward. For their offense of outspokenness, the vested interests of the different sections of society may threaten them menacingly, but they must remain undaunted by this. As the symbol of the hopes and desires of millions of people, they will have to hold aloft the possibilities of the next era, after transcending the limits of this one. In this undertaking there is as much responsibility as there is hard labour, not a bit less. Taking into account the natural means of expression of human aspirations, the artists will have to portray the ideal in a mode which is easily understandable by the masses.
The Language of the Era
Litterateurs who are born in a particular age or environment cannot completely transcend the influence of that particular environment, creating a literature based on an altogether different idea language.
Human taste is advancing through changes; not only is language and its style of expression changing, but it is gradually losing its simplicity due to more complicated modes of thought. I am not referring here to the litterateurs’ unnecessary endeavours to create linguistic intricacies and complexities.
Whether they like it or not, due to unavoidable necessity, they are gradually being compelled to use more and more complex language. This state of affairs also existed in the past, exists in the present, and will remain in the future. So taking into account the peculiarities of the underlying ideas and language, the insightful critic can very easily detect the lapses of the litterateur. The language of one era will become archaic or awkward in the next: no epic verse can be composed today with the simplicity of Valmiki’s(2) language.
The use of denominative verbs as in the era of Michael Madhusudhan Dutt would only provoke laughter in this age.
The ideas and language of Bháratacandra’s Vidyasundara received great approbation from the cultured people of that time, and used to be recited with great appreciation in the royal court. The poet, too, was honoured with a royal title in recognition of his work. But today this work is considered obscene in its ideas and language, unfit to be read in the society. Even the word that the litterateurs of today unhesitatingly express will perhaps one day become considered indecent in civilized society.
But litterateurs are absolutely helpless in this regard, for it is impossible for them to completely shake off the thought and language of their era. In spite of the expansion of their vision over all the eras, their physical existence indeed remains embedded in a particular age. How is it possible for them to cut themselves off from the influence of their era, whose light and air, soil and water, fruits and flowers, have saturated their whole lives? Cańd́idása in his Shriikrśńa-Kiirtana portrayed Rádhá far more crudely than Jnánadása and Govindadása did in their literary creations, and yet in simplicity and sincerity Shriikrśńa-Kiirtana is impeccable, regardless of its valuation in the royal courts of literature.
The Taste of the Age
An age advances though the physical, psychic, and causal spheres. The hands may not move as fast as the feet, and the intellect may move a thousand times faster than the hands; therefore different eras unfold at the same time in the life of an individual or a society. While evaluating literature, we should remember this fact, otherwise we may do injustice to the litterateurs and artists. It is necessary to have different kinds of yardsticks for measuring different things. Those who are awed by the unique artistic expression of the Końárka Temple sneer in contempt at its obscene sculptures. From the viewpoint of the modern era, they are perhaps correct, for their minds are conditioned by the taste of this era. But we must not forget that those sculptures possessed within them the combined expressions of other eras as well – that those artistic creations are the eloquent proofs of those very combined expressions.
With the dawn of civilization, humanity’s artistic mind was developed, and people expressed themselves through the media of arts and crafts. Primitive humans depicted in stone the images of the birds or animals they hunted, as well as the images of their own internal conflicts. Small groups of people constantly thought of reinforcing and increasing the strength and number of their respective groups in order to be victorious in their battles, and this in the arts of those days we find the appearance of Phallus worship as the symbol of numerical maximisation. This very Phallus worship, prevalent among primitive people of the non-Aryan society was given a new philosophical interpretation by the refined Aryans, and transformed into Shiva-liuṋga. In spite of the subtlety or refinement behind this philosophical substantiation, the more developed people lacked that simplicity of taste which the primitive people possessed. But the expressions of both groups have now become offensive to the taste of the people of today. Of course these are the results of epochal changes.
If 2 eras are expressed simultaneously through some artists’ hands and feet, thought and expression, then they may indeed possess all the faculties of mind – their contributions may be enriched with all the sweetness of their hearts, but there will certainly be no harmonious balance between their actions and their feelings. The thought-waves of the sculptors of Końárka could not flow at the same speed towards subtlety as did their chisels and hammers.
The Message of Human Fulfillment
The genius that evolves from age to age through the process of introversion and extroversion of the intellect is indeed bearing the message of the fulfilment of human potentiality. At every step the warm breath of its labour and fatigue finds true expression: no one has the power to withstand this force. Those who want to transform their psychic wealth into inertness and inaction may perhaps obstruct this force of expression for a while, but the inner momentum of its dynamism will not be the least impaired. The very next moment it will break through all the dams of obstacles with a force increased a thousand-fold. That is why I say that it is through the fight against opposing forces that the intellect is awakened.
This very suppressed consciousness has indeed laid the foundation of human civilization – has infused literary judgement with a refined outlook, and flavoured the taste of life with the nectar of Cosmic Bliss. Indeed, in every era literature has depicted the unique union of bliss (shreya) and objective pleasure (preya) in different modes according to the different phases of evolution to the characteristic self (svabháva). That which is antithetic to one’s nature, no matter how assiduously one might attempt to paint it with the colours of the imagination, can never be accepted by humanity as its own. If we liken Coastal Literature to the gala dress and Epochal Literature to everyday wear, then we will have to call this kind of impractical fantasy a dress of silvery tinsel. It has no use in life, nor has it any relation with the inner nature of human beings.
In order to give full expression to this continuous flow of humanity’s true nature, then insight, power of expression, and boldness – all three are necessary. The creation of ideal literature is not possible for those who are ever ready to yield to the pressures of the throng. To manifest that true nature (svabháva), one will have to give a clarion call to the common people to struggle against those forces that want to suck dry their vitality. Those voices which lack that bold heroism will simply whine and whimper doggerels in the name of poetry – they will try to save themselves from the responsibility of reality by counting the stars in the heavens. All are moving forward: no one has come to sit idle, and so everyone will have to march ahead in harmony with all, maintaining a fine adjustment with the flow of life. Whether in thought or in action, in all spheres the fundamental characteristic of humanity is to move ahead. Where there is inertness, there is darkness. So one must not give the least indulgence to inertness in the spheres of thought and language. Inertness is just another name for the blind attachment to the past. For the sake of benevolence, for the sake of bliss, this attachment has to be cast aside. If an idea is likened to iron, then the dynamism of language shall be the touchstone. One must always be vigilant so that the iron will not lose contact with the touchstone. So before giving expression to any elevated idea, the litterateurs must seek out this touchstone, they must bring it under their control. Many people have ideas which do not blossom forth due to lack of mastery over language. Those who have ideas must develop their power of expression through continued practice and effort: and those who possess the power of expression must make efforts to awaken their latent insight. The litterateur must possess both expression and insight: where there is no iron, the touchstone is meaningless.
By power of expression, I do not mean merely an individual’s skill with language; rather I mean the irresistible force of the mind and heart. Where there is a lack of boldness and courage, there the language is prone to move with diffident steps, with hesitant deliberation. Such a timid language cannot express independent thinking due to the impact of the prevalent social superstitions and prejudices, the static bondages of the existing religions, the pressures of political ideologies of communalism and provincialism, and the false pride of nationalism and narrow-minded political ideas. Thwarted by this impact, the weak language either stops moving or expresses itself with extreme diffidence, while following the policy of “kill the snake but save the stick.” The root cause of this weakness lies in the cowardice of individual life and the blind attachment to the past. Litterateurs have to assert themselves thunderingly, giving a stirring call to the people and, setting aside all the garbage of impurities with a bold mind and with strong arms, clear the path of human emancipation. In the path of fulfillment, they must be the pioneers. Here there may be a slight confusion with regard to the dynamism of language. What I mean exactly is that the language, too, moves forward, keeping pace with the speed of thought. At times the language of those whose thoughts cannot freely move forward under the weight of ignorance or prevalent superstitions, is also very forceful and dynamic. Even the language of those who compose doggerels glorifying the greatness of a family, caste or pilgrimage, at times appears to be attractive and impressive. One can also write a thesis in powerful language on petty matters like “A Sneeze,” “A House Lizard,” or, before preparing for a journey, on “Best To Go North, Not East”; but such language I refuse to accept as truly dynamic language, for it bustles about within the iron railings of superstitions and attachments to the past. It has speed but no movement. A deep analysis will show that with all its acrobatics it has not moved even a step forward. Yoked to the millstone of superstition, like the bullock of an oil-mill, it has perhaps strutted proudly the whole day for fifty miles with brisk strides, but it could not move a step forward.
The Unfoldment of Human Potential
The whole existence of human beings is ever-anxious for mental development.
Whatever is conducive to that development people cordially welcome, calling their distant friends nearer to them in the effort to express themselves; and whatever is antagonistic to this development they reject with all their hearts, though they may be forced to temporarily submit to it under circumstantial pressure. But as soon as an opportunity presents itself, they rise in revolt to deliver themselves from its clutches. This is human nature at all times and in all ages. Thus whenever something has to be done for humanity, it must be done keeping this essential human characteristic in mind. The author’s literature and the artist’s creation of art are indeed dedicated to the service of humanity, and so the litterateur and the artist must always deeply remember this truth. They will have to delineate their subject or theme in such a way that people, while assimilating it, may not feel any impediment in the path of their development. Interest must be created through natural expression.
The suggestion of subtle hints, interest and humour that exists even in the crudeness of ordinary life has to be adroitly held up before the eyes of the people – a touch of its colour must be conveyed to their minds.
It is easy to talk, but difficult to act; for in spite of mental characteristics being the same in all persons, they are expressed differently at different times, at different places, and in different persons due to variations of reactive momenta (saḿskára) or environmental peculiarities. If the artist’s mind can be made to touch the innermost hearts of others – if their human sentiment can be synchronised with others’ sentiments – then alone can people determine which path will be truly beneficial for them, which road will lead to the greatest unfoldment of their potentialities. If the potentialities of individual or collective development are not clearly understood, the psychic wealth of humanity may be misused at any moment.
Literature can beautifully convey to those who have the potentiality of leadership, how to develop that leadership properly, and how to establish that benevolent leadership on a firm foundation. But leadership is not only found among the good. Thieves, dacoits and knaves also have their leaders; and there are also leaders in reactionary movements. So if those with the potential of leadership, who are anxious to express their leadership qualities, derive suggestions from the litterateur how to enhance their personal prestige through malevolence and wickedness instead of through true benevolence and welfare, they may perhaps readily choose the evil path. People are desperate to develop themselves: if they are not guided onto the path of welfare by the litterateurs, they will follow the path of evil. They have no time to count the waves, sitting on the shore of the sea of time. They do not, and they will not, sit quietly, subduing their desires and propensities in the hope that some day, someone will come and direct them onto the path of benevolence. Human beings want free and untrammelled expression of their innermost thoughts and feelings. Few people have the capacity to judge the way this expression is taking place. Some ability, no doubt, develops at a later age as the result of many trials and tribulations, but it is completely absent in childhood, in adolescence and in early youth. So during this period, people readily accept glittery, superficial art and literature as an outlet for their self-expression. Instead of seriously pondering over this, they do not even understand the necessity of deeper reflection or analysis.
In this connection it is necessary to add that if two different paths, both good and bad, are presented before people for the expression of the same idea, they will gladly choose the easier one, instead of the more complex one. So no matter how benevolent the ideas of the litterateur, if they are not presented with exuberant delight and overflowing joy, though they may be acceptable to some, they will remain ever disagreeable and indigestible to the general mass. These observations may be somewhat significant for Coastal Literature, but for Epochal Literature they are indeed of paramount importance. If literature is not presented through the medium of joy, then it cannot really be accepted as literature at all, because in spite of its being guided by the thought of benevolence, that thought is unable to take practical shape. Such literature only enhances the price of the book, but it cannot at all enhance the value of humanity. When a presentation is made through the medium of joy, there people have the opportunity for comprehensive enjoyment, and the sympathy of the writer makes direct contact with the hearts of his or her readers. Such an excellent presentation is not possible if the writer lacks genuine human feeling. Good or bad, friend or foe, a chaste lady or promiscuous woman – all are human to the author. The author will have to be responsive to the aspirations of their hearts, and must try to give proper expression to their inner thoughts and sentiments. He or she will try to delineate their happiness and sorrow, hopes and desires, and treat every small or big clash and counter-clash of their affliction-ridden lives as the expression of the human heart. To the litterateurs no profession or propensity is either dignified or lowly: they will only present all these before the people in their true perspective so that the audience, after being acquainted with them, may make their individual and collective lives more meaningful. In no circumstances must the artist or the litterateur portray humanity as an object of hatred or ridicule. Even the character of a promiscuous woman or a thief must leave on the minds of the readers an impression of sympathy, charged with profound pain.
When artists lack such bold large-heartedness, they view humanity and the world through the spectacles of superstitions – they are incapable of truly acquainting human beings with each other or with the world, because these spectacles of superstitions or prejudices distort their vision so much that they are unable to understand the true perspective of anything.
Weak-minded litterateurs often try to stirringly exhort their readers with forceful language in order to camouflage their own inherent weaknesses before the public. They think that by the strength of their language they will prevail, but this is a grave error on their part. Perhaps a few fools may be deluded for some time, but ultimately, recognizing the malevolent repercussions of such literature, people will scrupulously avoid it.
A careful examination will enable anyone to discover the flagrant emptiness that always lurks behind such high-sounding utterances, Generally speaking, the greater the clouding of the litterateurs’ vision by the blind delusions of communalism, provincialism or nationalism, the greater the outpouring of this sort of literature from their pens.
Decency and Indecency in Art
There is a serious difference of opinion also among artists and litterateurs with regard to decency and obscenity in art. The conservative among them or the connoisseurs of art and literature are somewhat like the supporters of the cult of Varńáshrama (the Hindu caste system). They think that a little deviation from the established tradition will tarnish the purity of art or literature. Excessively worried about matters of caste and outcaste, about the analysis of decency and vulgarity in art or literature, they lose sight of its main objective.
If writing and drawing, chisel and hammer get themselves entangled in he wranglings of so-called ethics and morality, they cannot make any contribution to any section of the people. If you open a book to find that it contains only the tall topics of morality, you will have a headache before you read even five pages of it. In a movie if only moral ideals are paraded over and over again to the exclusion of everything else, the public will never appreciate that film.
The conclusion of all of this is that the thought of public welfare alone should be the main criterion of all artistic and literary creation, and that thought will take form only though artistic joy – only then can subtle intellect awaken in crude minds. So when the artists or litterateurs have to march forward creating such a flow of delight, they cannot afford to cling to any fastidious notions of so-called purity or impurity, for it will retard progress. Excessive prudery, like mysophobia (fear of contamination), will obstruct their path of movement.
These mysophobic, conservative writers will compose poems about seas, mountains and moonlight – will paint literary pictures of the drawing-rooms of the aristocratic Ballygunge elite – but it will offend their pens to write about the endless humiliations, the low standard of living and the vulgar dirtiness of the neglected, uneducated society of the villages, because these matters are unpleasant. The abominable life of corrupt women, the obnoxious environment of the slums, the carnal cravings of antisocial human beasts – all these they seek to avoid, because they are unacceptable by the standards of “decency” and “decorum”.
The human mind has many ideas and propensities that are normal and natural. But the mysophobic artists or litterateurs, with their touch-me-not-or-I-might-lose-my-purity mentality, want to avoid all these. They think that these propensities, if given place in literature, will jeopardize society. I cannot support this orthodox, rightist mentality.
Yet those who are leftists in the world of art are even more dangerous. The defect of the rightists is their inaction, and that of the leftists is their hyper-activity, based on selfishness. It seems as though they are deliberately seeking out the dark and dirty aspects of life and, like flies, growing fat on the secretions of society’s festering sores. It must be remembered that flies do not heal sores – rather they exacerbate them, because the very pus of these sores provides them with their vital juice. So the filthy aspects of society are the only wealth on which these artists and litterateurs subsist.
If art or literature is created revolving around the evil propensities of the human mind, people will naturally gravitate towards it in large numbers, and the creators of such literature will earn a great deal of money thereby; indeed, this is the only aim of their artistic creation. Engaged in the quest of evil, obscenity and vulgarity, they, too, lose sight of the primary goal of art.
In such matters of decency or indecency, the middle path is the best: that is, we must not deviate from the ideal. At the time of pursuing the path of benevolence we shall not bother as to which of these – decorum or vulgarity, decency or indecency – the brush, the pen, the chisel or the hammer, has become contaminated with during its march ahead.
If we do so, we will stray from our path. I am not prepared to accept any hard and fast rule that literature must be created centering on good citizens alone, nor am I inclined to agree to the policy that crude and mean people have to be presented as low or vile before the readers or spectators. In my opinion whatever artists create must have the fullest touch of their sympathetic minds. Those who are inferior and neglected, who are helpless and destitute – whom the society considers infernal maggots – they are the very people who are the most unrepresented in the salons of literature. They are mute; and so the heavy responsibility of expressing the sentiments that are hidden in their tormented minds has to be borne by the artist alone. The litterateur or the artist, has to take the responsibility of enabling them to rise up and sit in the same row with the rest of society, after dusting off the dirt from their bodies.
Mundane and Transcendental Love
Many people complain that most of modern literature is full only of the whimperings of cheap erotic love.
After seeing Bombay-made films, it seems that juvenile society has no other job than busying itself with so-called love – as though every college girl of any respectable community is engaged in amorous escapades, throwing all decency and decorum overboard.
In fact, the mentality of those artists and litterateurs who depict only this type of situation is nothing but impotent.
Whatever be the profound, philosophical implications of the word prema, or love, the true characteristic of prema is supra-physical – beyond the bondage of any limitation.
When artists, absorbed in the essence of love, try to convey it to the people through their language, rhetoric and subtle suggestions, the sweetness of their artistic genius reaches the apex of expression. But then this creation of the artist cannot be regarded as popular literature or art, because the subtle sense which is capable of comprehending that transcendental feeling is, indeed, undeveloped in most people.
The literature of Rabindranath Tagore has some semblances of this pure, supra-physical love. But whenever Rabindranath tried to give expression to it, he became unintelligible to the mass.
The transcendental thoughts and ideas of the sweet, graceful shlokas of the Upaniśads are also incomprehensible to the common people.
Infinite love is the ultimate ecstatic expression of finite love.
This very sense that artists try to awaken in the popular mind – when they devote themselves to the task of establishing the link between the finite and the infinite, between the mundane and the transcendental – this very awareness though not purely transcendental, verily bears the highest importance in the realm of art.
Through expressions which are comprehensible to ordinary intelligence, it gradually leads the sweetness of the human mind to a supra-sensible dreamland. Rabindranath’s poem “Urvashii” is a composition of this type. There is no dearth of physicality in the poem, nor is it difficult to understand; and yet its crude materiality gradually expands into a subtlety beyond understanding.
Love that is completely physical is not love at all in terms of philosophy. Therefore philosophy will not, and perhaps should not, entertain such love at all. But can an artist ignore it? It is in every great or small incident of life that an ordinary person feels pleasure or pain. Even love concerned with the body is not something completely cut off from pleasure and pain. How then can the artist, given to delineating human happiness and sorrow – sworn to giving form to the impact of human grief and pain, hopes and desires – neglect this physical love?
Here it must be noted that artists must seek to exhibit before people the simple form of truth, sweetened with the sweetness of their hearts.
But it is a matter of great regret that a class of modern artists, in the realms of poetry, novels, cinema, drama, etc., employ all their artistic talents for the sole purpose of kindling people’s crude sensuality, instead of portraying human propensities with the idealistic outlook of a true artist – what to speak of portraying their subtle human feelings. Without giving indulgence to conservatism,
I would say that this class of artists is truly a blot on society.