A Letter to a Hindu by Leo Tolstoy - Commentary and Book Review
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A Letter to a Hindu by Leo Tolstoy - Commentary and Book Review
(PD) Leo Tolstoy
"But by the term 'scientific' is understood
just what was formerly understood
by the term 'religious'." Leo Tolstoy
Copyright©2009-2013 April 11, 2009, updated October 19, 2013
A Book Review and Brief Commentary
of Leo Tolstoy's A Letter to a Hindu
Within my research, the search for answers led into the question of what the public might interpret as superior of intellect, which led to the investigation of academic prodigies, which led into the life of William Sidis, that led to the life of Norbert Wiener, that led to Norbert Wiener's father, Leo Wiener, that led to Leo Wiener's translation of Leo Tolstoy's "The Kingdom of God is Within You," which has now led to Leo Tolstoy's "A Letter to a Hindu." Within the writings of the numerous individuals, there existed an unbroken circular chain of philosophies and psychologies, with the effects and interpretations of the philosophies also encompassing the life of the child prodigy John Mill, whose philosophy influenced William James the philosopher and psychologist, with James in turn influencing the philosophy and psychology of Boris Sidis the psychologist, with Boris Sidis in turn influencing the prodigious talents of his son, William Sidis. Of the circles of philosophical and psychological influences, none were ever clarified of definition or intent by the men who taught the ideals, and thus, any error that may have existed in the first man's philosophy would naturally be perpetuated through all men who memorize and follow the first man's teachings.
Tolstoy's comments within A Letter to a Hindu are quite excellent examples of a logics structured upon a rationalizing of how religious and scientific teachings point to a favored state of human life, but still there was no explaining of the psychological reasons why the teachings might produce favorable states of man. It is not productive to the human mind to accept unknowns to be guiding principles, for it is well known that all things are created within a system of threes, that no thing can exist without it being composed of no fewer than three components, and so, therefore, it remains an unproductive behavior of man to continue believing that a singular external commandment can be the thing that creates inward attributes. Man invented man's laws and commandments, and the things created cannot become the things that create the creator, nor can the created things define the creator, and so it is with the knowledge that that which is created cannot measure that which created it, it is known from the very beginning that there exists inward attributes within man that must be recognized and understood prior to any man accepting any external law, commandment, or teaching as valid.
By releasing the belief-based standards that restrict and regulate one's thoughts and conclusions, the mind is again free to enjoy life as life occurs; as life exists. The result of the profitable teachings, of those like of Jesus' and the Vedas', is the self-creation of a mind and soul that can think clearly and quickly, not overly different than what many intellectual prodigies enjoy, and it is the lessening of belief-based standards that enables the possibility for prodigious talents to exist. No man, regardless of intellectual power, can think clearly or quickly if his mind is burdened with negative emotions and endless regulations, for regardless of how quickly his mind might manipulate information, if the information itself is rutted within an endless cycle of checks and balances, that is, if each thought must be judged with a heavy judgment of unknown variables, then no thought can happily lead to a conclusion based solely on the logic of the information alone. It remains an absurdity within man for him to regulate his thoughts and conclusions based upon the judgment of memorized rules, for his conclusions can never then be based on having derived the rules through his own logic, and where logical conclusions cease to exist, so does intellectual speed and quality. The man who follows the teachings of another man, he will not profit from the teachings, but rather he will only be made worse, but the man who investigates the teachings and learns through self-observation how the acts of the teachings produce specific results within his own self, he then is able to recognize how the specific behaviors and thoughts create specific natures within himself, and the man is then with the self-experienced knowledge of why the teachings are useful, and the man can then use his own rationalized conclusions to be his own inward truth without his having to rely on the slow judgments of whether his thoughts might be in agreement with external teachings. A fast method of achieving slowness of mind is to follow the teachings of another man, while the method of achieving quickness of mind is to only follow what truths that an individual has discovered and proven within himself. The teachers, especially as evidenced in the words of Jesus', appear to have known as much, but most humans still hold to a belief that all knowledge must be taught and that all behaviors must be judged by how well the behaviors follow what other men dictate. It is the ignorance of man that teaches man to follow man, and that keeps man in ignorance. Truth does set a man free; but only one's own truth, and not the truth of another man's.
A publisher's blurb stated that Gandhi derived his concepts of non-resistance from Leo Tolstoy's The Kingdom of God is Within You. In years past I had also read that Gandhi had derived his ideas of non-resistance from Thoreau's Civil Disobedience, and among my first amused thoughts were of Thoreau's pond, and his ‘back to Nature, but never more than an hour's walk from a restaurant.' Regardless of the great admiration and respect that is owed Gandhi, it remains an uncomfortable thought that any man's actions might have arrived through the following of another man's thoughts. A man should create his own thoughts, derived from his own first-hand observations, and analyzed through his own powers of reasoning, and never should any man allow another man's thoughts to become one's own. If a thing is not reasoned by one's self, then the thing's action cannot be of the man's own choice, nor of his nature, but rather the thing becomes but a mere belief, of no greater value than any other unsubstantiated belief, and the man's intellectual acuity will suffer greatly for his mind attempting to use unknowns to guide his reasoning. Yes, it is true that non-resistance is a proper behavior, but if the reasons why non-resistance are unknown, then the act of non-resistance becomes an empty act that cannot produce useful results.
Love is a thing that exists naturally, not born of any religion nor of any man's invention, and thus a thing not born of a religion cannot be a product of a religion, yet in modern times it is increasingly more common to hear angry men denounce love and promote hate because the men hate religion, and since the men believe that love is somehow connected with religion, the men rationalize to themselves that all things connected to religion must be hated, including love.
I am fully aware that the public has no desire whatsoever to learn of what things that combine to create the things called love and beauty, and so I will not discuss the topic here, but rather I will only touch on the simple thing that love is a component of harmony, and that without love there cannot exist harmony, and without harmony there can never exist a creative society of man. For love to exist within a man, there must exist the components that create the love, and never can love come into existence through the physical act of a man following the commandments of another man.
Upon the moment that a man chooses words over first-hand experience, the man becomes as a machine, one that can only recite memorized information, and never can the man be capable of intellectually discerning what the words might mean. A valid teaching of love is one whose aim is to direct the listener into choosing for themselves the experience of love, and no valid teaching will ever claim that an outward behavior can substitute for the inward nature. A man might feign love and give the appearance of love, but if his heart does not love, then love does not exist, nor harmony. No man can feel love unless he loves, and no commandment can force a man to love. To achieve the "highest morality," that of love, a man must choose for himself to love, and the man must create within himself the components necessary to create love.
It is interesting to me to see that Tolstoy, one-hundred years ago, held a similar opinion as my own, that the thing called "science" is reverenced by the public with no less vigor than what the public gives to any religion. The man who observes for himself, and who forms conclusions based upon his own observations and reasonings, he is free from the following of commandments, whether the commandments be from religion or science.
In the great zeal by the anti-religious there has been voiced the claim that science has become the sole source of truth, and as Tolstoy well described, the faith in science has become no less superstitious than what was previously held within religions. All men who follow commandments, those men remain within their religiosity, regardless of what name the tongue confesses faith in. The man who performs observations and experiments, he is a man who performs observations and experiments, he is not a member of science nor is he scientific, but rather he remains a man who performs observations and experiments. The moment that a man's actions are classified under a noun, whether Buddhism or science or any other, a religion is born.
Twenty-first century research, specifically that of individuals in organized institutions who personally research the mechanisms of psychology and biology, are slowly beginning to recognize the advantages of positivity of thought and behavior, but the progress remains at a snail's pace, and not yet have the different fields of study (physics, psychology, philosophy, and biology) combined their efforts to recognize what should have been obvious from the beginning.
Yes, a self-derived understanding, one that is founded and structured upon an individual's own reasoning of his own life, and not a reasoning based upon what other men have told the individual to believe. As Einstein commented, it is an insanity for a man to continue repeating the same acts over and over while expecting different results, and likewise is it an insanity for man to believe that in his repeating the same acts of following external commandments will he be bettered inwardly.
But it is acknowledged, and regrettably accepted as true, that man as a whole does not care to better his world, nor even himself, for man is not yet capable of recognizing the advantage of creative harmony. Man continues to believe that singular objects exist, that things can come into existence by themselves without being the creations of three or more components, and man continues to insist that the only acts worthwhile are those that satisfy his bodily cravings.
"What is not useful is harmful" is a good generalized concept of harmony and quality, that if a thing is not being useful to the whole of its environment, then the thing is harmful, not of harmony, and not of quality.
And here is where the philosophy of Tolstoy's blends into the happiness philosophy of John Mill's Utilitarianism. As with Utilitarianism not clarifying what happiness implies, nor attempting to define the components that combine to create the thing called happiness, so likewise did A Letter to a Hindu omit a clarification of the nature of love, and without the clarification there could be no demanding reason why the philosophy might be valid.
Thoreau's Civil Disobedience presented the belief that no man could find happiness and purpose in life unless the man agreed with the pseudo-pacifist beliefs of Thoreau's. Thoreau had not experienced, and thus did not know, the intense sensations of pride, honor, and purpose that can accompany military service, nor did Thoreau have an experience, and thus he had no understanding, of the numerous other manners of lifestyles a person might choose that produce as sharp of a sensation of worthiness as can be found in most any other lifestyle. For some men, who have experienced the rush of danger in war, regardless of whether the war was with man or beast, who have experienced first-hand the raising of sensorial acuity while the mind races with analyses of how to manipulate an otherwise lethal position into one of victory, whose memory will forever recall the great mental awakening, all such individuals are fully aware that Thoreau was wrong to classify soldiers into the category of mere unthinking and unfeeling machines under the bidding of politicians.
Real-world life, one that includes the penetrating sensations of pride, purpose, usefulness, and honor, are not owned by any ideology, nor can any one man's philosophy so easily dictate that a man can only find happiness within one lifestyle. While there is reason to conclude that mankind would be greatly bettered if all men were to love all without measure, there is no reason to expect all men to choose the choice to love. The design of man, one that is structured upon favored emotions, will forever produce men who are of as varying degrees of choices as there are varying degrees of emotions, and man should stop trying to force all men to only experience the emotion favored by the one man.
So, if Gandhi was influenced by the writings of men, those of Tolstoy, Raichandbhai, Ruskin, Thoreau, and unknown others that came under their own influence of John Mill's and others, then the questions arise, those of wondering if Gandhi's behavior of non-resistance was a following of other men's thoughts, or did Gandhi achieve a clarification of why non-resistance was the better choice; with none of the questions being answerable today.
Neither the happiness of Utilitarianism, nor the love of A Letter to a Hindu, nor the non-resistance of Gandhi have yet to create a peaceful life in any country. The only peace that will ever occur, is within your own self, and it has always remained the only accurate teaching.
The text for Leo Tolstoy's A Letter to a Hindu was taken from the Project Gutenberg version, with an introduction by M. K. Gandhi.
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