By Life Positive September 2008 This excerpt from an idealist view of life by former president, S Radhakrishnan rhapsodises on the spirit in man If we are asked to define what the spirit in man is, it would be difficult to give a definite answer. We know it, but we cannot explain it. It is felt everywhere though seen nowhere. It is not the physical body or the vital organism, the mind or the will, but something which underlies them all and sustains them. It is the basis and background of our being, the universality that cannot be reduced to this or to that formula. … There is a parable in the Upanishads which speaks of two birds sitting on the same bough, one of which feeds and the other looks on. The spirit looks on disinterestedly, its delight is pure and free; the empirical self is concerned with the business of life. The former is vaster, profounder, truer, but it is ordinarily hidden from our knowledge. When the Supreme Light in us inspires the intellect we have genius, when it stirs the will we have heroism, when it flows through the heart we have love, and when it transforms our being, the son of man becomes the son of God. Put the fire of spirit on any altar, it blazes up to heaven. Its powers are infinite, its dreams angelic, its apprehensions godlike. There is no natural limit to its expression, it is potentially all-embracing. Wherever there is genius, ardour, heroism, there is the creative spirit at work in however nebulous and untried a way it may be. …s We cannot attain to this greatness of soul unless we are reborn. Those who have reached the heights are literally reborn, made new. While this quality of rebornness manifests itself in the lives of the lords of mankind, it is not absent in any of us. Though we may not have developed this greatness, we are ready to pay our homage to those who have reached it. The thoughts, the raptures and the deeds of the great induce in us an attitude of adoration. If the spirit were not in us, we would not have thrilled with joy when face to face with the great works of art, science, of life. We claim their intensities of significance, their splendours of heroism, their visions of rapture as our own. The rhythms of the poet find correspondence in the conditions of our soul; their words an authentic echo in our speech… Any voice which speaks from the depths of one’s heart liberates at the same time thousands of silent voices. The poet’s words are claimed by us as our native speech; the philosopher’s ideas are accepted by us as our highest thoughts. The saint’s perfection is felt as something to which we aspire and may attain. When any picture, poem or life produces in us a wonderful effect, we may be sure that there is an interior responding wonder that meets it. We cannot understand Plato if we have not the spirit of Plato. To understand Christ we must have the mind of Christ…
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