VYDUNAS: THE ESSENTIAL FEATURES
OF HIS PHILOSOPHY
Vydunas is an extraordinary figure in our culture, as is his personal and creative fate and his extraordinary status in our cultural consciousness. Although he achieved a great deal and contributed significantly to the national culture, for a long time he remained in nearly total oblivion. It is said that the best tests of values is time; that only true values remain alive, while those which do not resist the trials of time fall into the passive stock of the past. This usually is the case. However, even true and significant values do not always survive — sometimes they are buried under an historical avalanche and it takes time for the archaeologists to arrive. Vydunas’s case is of this latter type. For the younger generations of the post-World War II period he was nearly dead. His dramas which constitute the treasure load of Lithuanian dramatic composition had long been shelved in obscurity, and his philosophical treatises were for some people too frightening to look at, let alone delve into. Vydunas’s works and ideas were non-existent in our culture, and, as a matter of fact, neither were they missed. Today we experience a need for the values so consistently and deliberately presented by Vydunas to the nation.
Who was Vydunas for the Lithuanian nation; what values did he propose? His life path, albeit long, was quite uncomplicated. He was born in Jonaiciai (Silute district) on March 22, 1868. His real family name was Storosta, first name — Vilhelmas. His childhood and early schooling years were spent in Naujakiemis, near Pilkalnis (presently Dobrovolsk), followed by Pilkalnis preparatory school and Ragaine teacher training seminary. Before 1892 he was a schoolmaster in Kintai (Silute district) and until 1912 in the nine-year secondary school for boys in Tilsit. He was of delicate constitution (consumption was hereditary in the family); thus he retired quite early in life, at the age of 44 (in 1912). Later he made sporadic attempts at teaching: in 1918 he taught Lithuanian language in the Eastern seminar at the University of Berlin; in 1919 he taught the Lithuanian language to adults at the Tilsit Gymnasium; in the summer of 1923 he lectured in the teachers’ course in Palanga; in 1920-1923 was visiting teacher of literature at the Telciai gymnasium; and in 1924-1927 he read a course in the history of culture at the music school of Klaipeda.
In his regular teaching years, during the summer time he took courses in Greifswald (1896-1898), Halle (1899) and Leipzig (1900-1902), and after 1912 Berlin universities, where, through the lectures of famous German philosophers and other scholars of the time, and individual studies, he went deeper into the history of philosophy, literature and art, the philosophy of culture, religion, history, art and law, and into sociology, and also learned English, French and Sanskrit. He did not take any examinations and therefore received no university diploma.
So much for the factual biography of Vydunas. It was interwoven with another much longer creative and cultural biography. In 1895 Vydunas became Choirmaster of the Tilsit Lithuanian Church, which in 1897 was reorganized into the Lithuanian Society for Secular music, and gave Lithuanian performances and concerts in different places of Prussian Lithuania. Vydunas performed as choir master, performance director, playwright and even composer. Collections of songs and plays written by him were published in separate editions. The Society was active until 1935, when, alongside other Lithuanian groups, it was banned by the Hitlerite authorities. The main goals of Vydunas’s cultural endeavor were to foster the national self-awareness and self-appreciation of the Prussian Lithuanians, stimulating their spiritual activity, drawing them to aesthetic values, as well as "exhibiting the Lithuanian character," i.e., demonstrating to the aliens, particularly Germans, the creative ability of his own nation, its cultural richness, uniqueness and attractiveness.
The philosophical activity of Vydunas which started in the early 20th century as part of his cultural work was directed along the same lines. During his studies in Leipzig Vydunas joined the German Theosophical Society, and in 1902 he founded a theosophical circle in Tilsit. In Klaipeda, Silute, Tilsit and many other places of Prussian Lithuania he read public lectures in philosophy and later summarized or narrated them in local Lithuanian or German newspapers. In 1905 he started publishing the bi-monthly theosophical journal Saltinis, and upon its termination in 1907 started publishing philosophic treatises in separate books. At that time he began using Vydunas as his literary pseudonym, which became his penname. He considered the most important goal of his activities to be neither the development of his own philosophical theories nor the intellectual enlightenment of his fellow countrymen, but stimulating people "to aspire to a more ideal humaneness" in order "to strengthen the nation". The ideas borrowed from the wealth of universal philosophy were also to serve the stimulation of the people. He propagated these ideas in the magazines Jaunimas (1911-1914), Naujove (1915) and Darbymetis (1921-1925), for which he wrote. He himself published many philosophic and publicistic articles for the Lithuanian periodicals of East Prussia and Lithuania, and made numerous presentations on different occasions.
On his sixtieth birthday in 1928 Vydunas was conferred the honorary degree of Doctor of Philosophy from Kaunas University. In 1925 he was elected honorary member of the international PEN Club and in 1933 honorary member of the Lithuanian Writers’ Association. There was even an idea of nominating him for the Nobel Prize.
Upon the establishment of the Fascist dictatorship in Germany, Vydunas was subjected to persecution and bitter insults. The greatest hatred of the Nazi was roused by his historic work Sieben Hundert Jahre Deutsch — Litauischen Beziehungen (in the German language) which appeared in 1932 and showed the actual results of the seven hundred-year long denationalization of Lithuania Minor. The book was treated as "harmful for the vital interests of the Reich" and confiscated by the police. Fortunately, that was not done promptly and part of the print run was disseminated.
Vydunas was not broken by threats and persecution. His undisturbed, Gandhist demeanor had a maddening effect on the Nazis who tried to give the thinker "a lesson". The opportunity presented itself in early 1938 when the financial police detected an infringement of the rules for holding money abroad. The essence of the matter was this: in Lithuania money was raised through donations for Prussian Lithuanians (to purchase a house). The money was transferred to one of the Lithuanian banks. Vydunas who acted as Chairman of the Prussian Lithuanian Associations (while it was functioning — until 1935) signed the bank papers. Subsequently he was considered to be having money abroad, i.e. in Lithuania, which was not declared by him and made him liable. The fact that the Lithuanian associations had not been functioning for three years and that Vydunas did not consider himself to own the money was of little importance for the authorities. On March 11, 1938 he was arrested and imprisoned in Tilsit. Two months later he was released from prison as a result of worldwide protest calls, since the Lithuanian Writers’ Society had sent a memorandum to the creative and philosophy organizations, editorial offices of literary publications and famous cultural figures in many countries. However, the charge was not lifted and the case was not closed until early 1940.
Upon his release from prison life became easier, and the persecution and threats ceased. Lost in unvoiced suffering about the atrocities of the war, he dedicated himself to writing and to philosophical contemplation on the doings of his time. In that period his major philosophic works appeared: Human Consciousness in Religious Tales, Scripture and Holy Symbols and Considerations on the Mysteriousness of Consciousness (in German). The fate of both works was tragic: the first was published in 1941, however, no permission for dissemination was granted and the whole print run was lost in the war; the manuscript of the second was submitted to the "Medhein" publishers in Berlin and destroyed in its ruins. The manuscript of the major historical work 50 Years of National Prussian Lithuanian Societies was also lost. Several other minor works in philosophy, literary studies and autobiography were written by him during the war and post-war period: "The Emergence of a More Noble Humaneness", "Recollections and Considerations Related to Religious Faith", "Imprisonment — Liberation", "Religion through the Millenniums of Human History" (in German), "In the Demon’s Hands", "The Basic Issue" (in German), "Life in Prussian Lithuania around 1750 as depicted by Kristionas Donelaitis" (in Lithuanian and German), and a number of articles published in the periodicals of Lithuanian emigration.
On October 2, 1944 Vydunas fled from Tilsit under bombardment and moved into inland Germany. For a short time he stayed in the manor in Povarbiai (near Konigsberg), then in Rugenwald. From April 6, 1945 to July 17, 1946 he stayed in the village of Eikfier in Pomerania. After that he was sheltered in a refugee camp in Stetin for two weeks. Due to extremely harsh conditions he left the camp and found himself in a hospital in Lubeck. A month later, owing to the efforts of his Lithuanian friends he moved to the comfortable town of Detmold (Westfalien) in the British zone. There he spent the busy and quiet last seven years of his life. Having contracted pneumonia which started as a flu, Vydunas died on February 20, 1953, one month short of his 85th anniversary. He was buried in the old cemetery of Detmold, and in 1991 re-buried in the small cemetery of Bitenai (Silute district, Lithuania).
THE GENESIS OF HIS PHILOSOPHY
His creative heritage is vast, comprising over 60 books of fiction, philosophy, historiography, language, autobiography, complete sets of magazines written and published by himself, many articles on philosophy, literary studies, popular writings in the periodicals of Lithuania Minor and Lithuania Proper, over a dozen of unpublished works. This multi-sided heritage, as well as immense efforts in the domains of culture, and the remarkable results of this work create a basic phenomenon of the nation’s life which could be called Vydunism. Philosophy lies at the heart of this phenomenon. His philosophy constitutes an ideal programme, realized by Vydunas through his life, creation and multi-sided activities.
However, considering Vydunas exclusively as a philosopher might put him at a certain disadvantage, since one could detect some weaknesses and imperfections, for example, a vague philosophical system, indistinct logical framework, lack of criticism and of precise philosophic definition, the poetic nature of his philosophic style, etc. Vydunas is impossible to imagine in a strictly philosophic frame; as such a Vydunas would not exist in our consciousness as the phenomenon which we perceive and visualize today. Among the philosophers of the current century Vydunas stands out as highly unusual: he did not graduate from any universities, did not defend any dissertations, did not have the title of professor, did not purposefully develop his own philosophical system, did not criticize the systems or conceptions of other thinkers. Philosophy for him was not the sphere of self-expression on which he made a living.
Nevertheless, for Vydunas philosophy, although not the sphere of his professional self-expression, meant much more than for those who are called philosophers. Vydunas reminds one not so much of an intellectual of the 20th century, but rather of an ancient man of wisdom for whom philosophy was the mode and essence of life. He was not only and concerned not so much about expounding wisdom, but more about embodying it in reality through his behaviour and works. Thus, the idea which is born of tranquillity and absorption, its expression in words, and of the latter in deeds and works make up, in the words of V. Mykolaitis-Putinas, "a consistent harmonious whole, impressive by its compatibility and unity"1.
The aim of Vydunism as a phenomenon is to rouse the nation for the fulfillment of the sense of human and national life, that is, to strive for "a more ideal humaneness"2. Vydunas wrote his philosophic works in such a way as "to make the readers respond to the call of devoting more of their selves to the essence and sense of life"3. Notably, this suggestive nature of philosophy occasioned an unusual, non-academic character, a lack of logical distinction, and a specific, more literary than philosophical, presentation. These circumstances must have been responsible for the fact that until today the philosophical considerations of Vydunas are not taken seriously, as having no system or consistency.
A deeper scrutiny of Vydunas’s philosophy reveals that its formation was not only affected by the philosophic and religious conceptions of many countries, but also had a clear logic and line in selecting the conceptions, and a close typological or genetic link among the selected conceptions. Through this selection and grouping, constructing an integral perception of the world, the personality of the thinker is also outlined. One gets an impression that this is a naturally developed logically consistent, co-ordinated and motivated philosophical system on which the author put no special emphasis.
Surprisingly philosophy, which constitutes the bulk of Vydunas’s creative heritage and the ideal programme which he tried to realize in his life, did not become his main objective. His philosophical investigations began in search of solutions for the practical, painful problems of life, not as theoretical considerations. In pursuit of these objectives Vydunas developed into an original practically oriented thinker, striving to respond instinctively to the topical issues of the national life and to contribute to its perfection. The main impetus which set the direction and range of the problems in his philosophic investigations was the need to aid his compatriots in effective resistance against methodical national assimilation. His activity began at the end of the 19th century and lasted through the 1930s, i.e., during the period when the relentless Germanization policy nearly attained its goal. In his youth he realized that the radical struggle of East Prussian Lithuanians against the powerful efforts of the German authorities was practically senseless, since it could only accelerate and invigorate the national assimilation process, stimulated by the rapidly developing German capitalism.
The search for measures to help his oppressed compatriots resist the national enslavement constituted the bulk of his philosophical endeavors. It guided him to the concept of the spiritual perfection of man and nation, the practical application of which should, according to him, not only rescue the nation from extinction, but also give impulse to its intensive cultural creation. Namely, in this search the exceptional phenomenon of Vydunism — strikingly resembling the Indian phenomenon of the time, Gandhism — was shaped, strengthened and manifested in all its splendor. The analogy to Gandhism is by no means accidental. Vydunas and Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) were united not only by the struggle against national oppression, which was evolving in analogous settings, but also by the same theoretical sources which shaped their course of action in their struggle against oppression. Philosophic research during his studies in German universities led Vydunas to ancient Indian philosophy. There he found the essential answers to the problems that had been worrying him and which had already interested him in his childhood. The social environment shaping his philosophic nature seemed to be driving him to that philosophy.
Vydunas grew up in a religious milieu. His father had completed missionary studies in Berlin, but due to his poor health could not engage in overseas missionary activities and had to preach at home. The father subtly imbued his children with religious outlook, closely associating it with the moral essence of man. Frequent ailments, with death always breathing on his back, urged Vydunas in his early years, to probe his inner states, to think about the deeper meaning of the surrounding world which is not always visible to the naked eye. The futuristic thinker tried to search for the explanation of that meaning, first of all in the Bible, which he first read on his mother’s encouragement at the age of nine. The firm moral principles which had formed in the child’s mind were in discord with many episodes from the Scripture, particularly the Old Testament, where "owing to their brutality and heartlessness certain moments were inflicting pain"4. His personal thinking and his father’s guidance enabled him, early in his life, to conclude that the Bible should not be taken to the letter, but symbolically through the philosophical meaning which it gives to the depicted episodes. He got deeply absorbed in works on theology and the history of Christianity, and took an interest in the pre-Christian religious tales of Germans, Greeks, Romans, Parsees and other ancient peoples. He was particularly fascinated by the idea of the immanent and transcendent nature of God — being in everything and above everything, as detailed in the work of J.H. Kurtz, a historian of Christianity. This idea of immanence proved particularly catching, and in later years on the basis of the idea Vydunas would elaborate on the spiritual nature of the human essence and its parity to divinity.
Explorations of this kind pushed Vydunas to philosophic studies. The ideas propagated by Wilhelm Schuppe, professor from Greifswald university (1863-1913), particularly the conception of consciousness, according to which reality is but the content of this consciousness, touched him deeply, since it corresponded to the young thinker’s personal trend of spiritual inquiries. The conception became not only the starting point in shaping the philosophical system of the thinker, but also one of the basic postulates of the system, the fundamental substantiation of which he later found also in Indian philosophy.
Vydunas was strongly influenced and considerably benefited from other German philosophers idealists and scholars of the time whom he met in his studies: E. Troeltsch, A. Rienl, J. Rehmke, K. Breysing, A. Laoson, A. Hensler, K. Lamprecht, G. Folkelt, W. Wunndt, U. von Willamowitz-Moellendorf, E. Lehmann, A. von Harnack and G. Runze. From their lectures he could not only compose a picture of the idealist German philosophy of the time, but also familiarize himself with the history of philosophy, particularly German classical philosophy, which during Vydunas’s studies was read by some of the above philosophers to summer course students. Direct contacts with German thinkers were maintained in later years as well, since such famous scholars and philosophers as M. Rade, A. Deismann, H. Weissel and R. Eucken used to lecture in Tilsit. Personal talks and discussions which Vydunas had with them "filled him with a variety of incentives for further considerations"5.
His subsequent in-depth studies of the non-Christian religions (mostly Eastern-Egyptian, Parsee, Chinese, Indian, Arab), scrutiny of holy writings, stories and interpretations was a kind of an extension of his childhood experiences. This was, by no means, a casual object of interest, but a search for answers to the same topical questions. Only this time these questions acquired a more conceptual meaning — the thinker became increasingly concerned with humaneness as a philosophical problem, as a possibility to explain the cultural process and its meaning. "All my studies and all my reflections were driving me deeper to the mysteriousness of consciousness and, consequently, to what faith and culture actually stand for" — this was how Vydunas described his investigations of the time. — "I was constantly trying to judge from what different people in different countries thought and generated over millenniums, about their spiritual level, including their culture."6 Summers spent by Vydunas in Leipzig may be singled out as a specific stage of these explorations. There he became interested in the problems of nationality, which were dealt with at length by the founder of experimental psychology, philosopher W. Wundt (1832-1920), and the historian of the positivist liberal trend, K. Lamprecht (1856-1915). Under their influence in Leipzig the issues which for several years had been worrying Vydunas as one working on culture and as a representative of a nation under heavy national oppression became an object of philosophical reflections.
The earlier trend of his explorations on man, culture, religion and consciousness acquired new impulse in Leipzig as well. These impulses were produced by acquaintance with the theosophers active there (at that time the German theosophic association was centered in Leipzig). Vydunas was fascinated by their ideas and became an active member of the society.
In theosophy the young thinker was impressed by an attempt to synthesize philosophy, religion and science. The practical purposefulness of theosophy, manifested through the intentional move towards the spiritual liberation of man and mankind, became for him highly attractive. This trend enabled Vydunas to realize the social situation of the time and also produced an impact on his cultural activity. In theosophy he believed he came across the ideas which could be of great importance for his oppressed compatriots. Under the effect of these ideas the Prussian Lithuanians should develop brighter consciousness, higher spiritual quality and also better resistance against national assimilation.
The theosophical movement, an active participant of which Vydunas became, was, in fact, one of the attempts to overcome the crisis of religion, particularly Christianity. Theosophy must have looked attractive for Vydunas as a form of non-orthodox religiosity turned philosophical, as a doctrine which propagated no primacy for any religion asserting the same esoteric truths in different languages. This movement was responsible for the thinker’s increased respect for the old religion of Lithuanians which came to have special treatment both in his fiction works (trilogy "An Eternal Flame") and his historiosophic and philosophic writings. These works accentuated the idea that the old religion of Lithuanians was not second to any religion in appreciating the origination of the world from the spiritual absolute, but doing so in a specific way. Its pantheistic nature, manifest through the animation of natural elements, shows not only its archaic character, but is also a sign of great maturity.
Theosophy was neither the last nor the main spring from which Vydunas drew on his path as a thinker. However it was important for him, since it led him to another source which put a decisive touch to his philosophical system. Absorbed in the works of theosophic authors (mostly H.P. Blavatsky, A. Besant, E. Schiure, F. Hartmann, A. Sinett, B. Chatterji, etc.) Vydunas had an opportunity to peruse the ideas which these theosophers had taken from different sources. The principal among these sources was the old Eastern, particularly Indian, philosophy. The theosophists supplemented it and combined it with some ideas of the philosophy of antiquity (especially Pithagorism, Platonism, Neoplatonism), Christian mysticism, and European idealism of the modern age, notably pantheism. Thus, in familiarizing himself with theosophy Vydunas gained knowledge of the essential postulates of Indian philosophy. Under their effect he plunged into the primary sources of Indian philosophy, the basic assertions of which formed the nucleus of his own philosophy. Following his direct contacts with Indian philosophy, the rest of the ideas coming within the range of his intellectual interests were important for him to a degree where they were able to confirm and complement the assertions of his philosophy.
He was also under the effect of Western philosophy, which gave an impetus to his engagement in the area in which he was quite proficient. However, in his investigations of Western philosophy he concentrated his attention on moments with a distinct consonance with Eastern, particularly, Indian philosophy. Apart from Indian philosophy, Vydunas had a good knowledge of the antique Greek philosophy, in which the ideas of the Orphists, Pythagoras and Plato, which were close to the East, held for him, as for all theosophists, special charm. The Lithuanian thinker made a thorough analysis of the works of the Christian mysticists J. Boehme, J. Eckhert and philosophers of the modern age, Nicolaus Cusanus, B. Spinoza, G. Bruno and G.W. Leibniz, in which distinct analogies or points of interaction with the oriental concepts of being and man can be found.
In Indian philosophy which appealed to him most Vydunas thought he had found things particularly close to his spiritual investigations and which, in his opinion, were best suited for his nation, which was badly in need of inner strength. Indian philosophy attracted him by its moral purposefulness, care for man, elucidation of the sources of his sufferings and by the indication of means for overcoming suffering. Each idealistic system of Indian philosophy (eight in all) has a specific way of solving the problems of ontology and epistemology. However, they have a more or less common approach to the problems of ethics, explaining the principles and ways of human liberation. Another feature common to nearly all Indian philosophy, namely its close relation to religion, the intertwining of religious and ethical problems, was naturally very close to Vydunas, educated from childhood in a religious spirit. Another factor which made the ideas of Indian philosophy particularly dear to Vydunas, was, as mentioned above, the correspondence at the time of the formation of his outlook and joining the national movement of Prussian Lithuanians, with the beginning of his cultural endeavor and search of its principles. Specifically under the effect of Indian philosophy Vydunas chose cultivation of a moral revival of the nation as the most suitable way. In search of ways which could make the oppressed Lithuanians resist national subjugation the thinker urged his fellow countrymen to advance their culture (taking an active part in the action himself), to look for support in the national values, to seek human perfection, "to grow from the inside", to morally surpass their oppressors. This attitude, born of daily affairs, conditioned the humanist specifics and problems of Vydunas philosophy, namely, to reveal and substantiate the essence of humaneness, to show the ways leading to it, and to disclose the nation’s role in the advancement of humaneness and the context of being. For solving these problems Vydunas resorted mostly to ancient Indian philosophy.
It should not be assumed that Vydunas was equally affected by all Indian philosophy. The basic materialistic ideas of Lokayata were absolutely unacceptable for him, and the conceptions of the idealistic systems originated in the Middle Ages — Vedanta, Mimamsa, Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisesika, Buddhism and Jainism — were not all close to him.
When the philosophy of Vydunas is taken as a complete system, as a result, it is impossible not to see his affinity to that trend of Indian philosophy which included the ideas propagated by his almost contemporary figures in the Indian national movement and the reformers of one of the basic religions of the country — Hinduism. The most outstanding among them were R. Roy, D. Tagore, Ramakrishna, S. Vivekananda, S. Dayananda, Sri Aurobindo, B. Tilak and M.K. Gandhi. We do not possess evidence that our thinker was familiar with their actual writings. He never mentioned them, except Gandhi, nor quoted except a few dicta from Ramakrishna presented in the magazine Naujove. The analogies between him and some Hindu reformers (particularly S. Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, M.K. Gandhi) and their conceptions, problems and solutions, are striking. These analogies were not the result of direct or literary contacts, but can be explained by the fact that both Vydunas and the Hinduism reformers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries found their inspiration in the same sources of the ancient Indian wisdom and were in analogous conditions of national oppression. They were moved by the same national and broader social issues, and the old Indian wisdom prompted similar answers. In the words of the Russian Indologist R. Rybakov, the majority of them had a task of "rousing the feeling of national dignity and shame for their humiliating position among their compatriots, a shame, which, in its own turn, would stimulate a desire to change the life."7
The affinity of Vydunas and the Hindu reformers is best seen through his and their relation with their own culture and the principles of using the culture in the struggle against national oppression. The Hindu reformers, in their efforts to incite their people under colonial oppression, to invigorate their national dignity, tried to revive respect for their ancient culture and to reveal its authentic content, distorted over the long centuries by orthodox religion. The key principle of the Hinduism reformers’ activity was not a blind adoption for the old culture, but its modification to suit the current needs of the nation. This principle was used independently by Vydunas as well. It is even more surprising that Vydunas, like the Hindu reformers propagated among his fellow countrymen the universal worldview of humaneness, which rested on the most important postulates of old Indian philosophy. In his opinion the new worldview would stimulate and not subdue the national awareness of his compatriots. It has this potential since its roots reach far back into the ancient times and are had also by the ancient Lithuanians, expressed in a different form. The reviving nation should, actually recollect the essence of the ancestral worldview. In this sense Vydunas was a kind of a reformer himself who tried to develop a non-orthodox attitude of his countrymen to their Christian faith. Without urging the believers to give up the Protestantism or Catholicism they practiced, Vydunas strove to imbue in their consciousness the awareness that these religions, likewise all the rest, should be treated as one of the many forms of expression of the universal theist worldview acceptable for all mankind.
Analogies between the outlook of Vydunas and the Hindu reformers are close not only in typological, but also in genetic terms — the same philosophical source. Not the whole of ancient Indian philosophy, or even one of its layers uniting all its systems, but one sole system, and its most outstanding monuments should be considered the common source.
The reformers of Hinduism were followers of Vedanta, one of the eight philosophic idealistic systems structured in the Middle Ages, which constituted the philosophic basis of Hinduism. In tackling problems current in their time they made use of the ideas propagated in the sources of this system and integrated them accordingly. Basic among these sources are the Vedas (four collections of the Hindu scriptures from the 12th and 7th centuries B.C.), Upanishads — philosophical commentaries of the Vedantic mythology, the ideas of which were first systematized by the philosopher Badarayana (3rd and 4th centuries) in his "Brahmasutras". Alongside the Upanishads themselves these Sutras were commented upon and their ideas advanced by a number of famous philosophers of this system. The most prominent among them is Sankara from the 8th century, who developed the conception of pure idealistic monism (advaita), the thinker of the 11th and 12th centuries Ramanuja, who worked out the conception of limited idealistic monism (vishishta advaita) and the author of the dialectic dualism (advaita) conception, Madhva (13th century) Another particularly popular source of the Vedantic ideas is the philosophic poem Bhagavadgita, a constituent part of the 3rd century B.C. epic Mahabharata. The philosophy of each Hindu reformer of the 19th and 20th centuries was, in fact, an interpretation of the Vedantic postulates of the above sources, addressed to the philosophical, largely ethical substantiation of the meaning and tasks of the national movement. To that end the ideas of the Bhagavadgita were exploited most attentively.
The newly treated Vedanta was called by its interpreters neo-Vedanta (S. Vivekananda), integral Vedanta (Sri Aurobindo) and the like. Vydunas could be called the Lithuanian neo-Vedantist. His relation with the Vedantic sources and ideas are analogous to the relation of the reformers with these sources. Vydunas himself indicated on several occasions that he "clarified his visions" with the help of the principal sources of classical Vedanta. The exceptional place of the Bhagavadgita in the philosophical biography of Vydunas is seen from the fact that he translated it into Lithuanian. From the three trends of Vedanta mentioned above — advaita, vishishtadvaita, dvaita — the philosophy of Vydunas is closer to vishishtadvaita (limited monism) created by Ramanuja, which also constitutes the basis of the "Bhagavadgita". In this trend, postulating the unity of spiritual being does not negate the reality of the world. On its basis Vydunas explains that spirit and the material world constitute two opposite manifestations of the absolute. The absolute is not only eternal and unchangeable as in Sankara’s conception of Advaita, but is capable of changing, manifesting itself through the formation the world-involution — in space and time. Evolution, which negates involution, gradually brings the objects of the world back to the absolute. Involution and evolution make up the eternally moving cycle of being, which contains not only the opposite extreme states of the absolute, but also a multitude of other stages of reality characterized by different relations between being (consciousness) and non-being (unconsciousness).
Vydunas gives the following description of the meaning of involution and evolution: "Everything emerges from the unknown unity, passes through the dreamed plentitude and goes back to the known unity".8 This "dreamed plentitude" is a kind of play, illusion of the absolute, as defined in the Vedanta. The stages of the absolute are just the phases of reality distinguished by a different relation between consciousness: they are unconsciousness, and divided into four spheres of the phenomenal world and three spiritual ones. According to Vydunas, to the material world belong the spheres of inanimate nature (prakrti), plant life (prana), animal activity and desires (kama), and human reason (kama-manas). To the spiritual sphere belong the spheres of omnipotence, wisdom, love (atma-budhi-manas). The seven spheres making up the universe also have their expressions in man, which is treated by Vydunas as a microcosm, model of the universe. Man is also the highest phase in world evolution. The essence of humaneness (a variety of atma-budhi-manas) is already ascended above all the material spheres and belongs to the sphere of pure spirit. What in man is associated with the material sphere — body (inanimate nature — prakrti), life (prana), instincts (kama), reason (kama-manas) — are the means of expression of the essence. The spiritual essence itself can be seen from the human self-consciousness (this self-consciousness is an expression of the spiritual absolute itself), wisdom, intuition, morality, consciousness, love, ability to overcome egoism, feel and create goodness and beauty.
What makes up the social nature of man, the result of the millennia-long formation in Vedanta, is sought by Vydunas in the metaphysically perceived absolute. The spiritual essence of man is a sparkle of the absolute or divinity. Therefore, according to Vydunas, as an adherent of the system of Indian idealistic philosophy, particularly of Vedanta, man belongs both to the spiritual and material spheres of the absolute, and is a combining link of these spheres, an explicit evidence of substantial unity.
On the basis of the Vedanta conception of man and being, Vydunas developed his own conception of culture, which constitutes one of the most original and distinctive parts of the Lithuanian philosophy of culture. For the thinker who looks through the prism of Vedantic philosophy culture is indispensable, i.e. an ontologically conditioned evolutionary part of the cosmic whole. Its origin is related by Vydunas to the emergence of the humane sphere in that evolution. Through humaneness the evolution of the whole has already arrived at the level of pure spirit, where it wakens the self-consciousness of the absolute, finding its expression in the spirituality of man, his individual self-consciousness, which becomes one of the conscious factors in the development of the world. With the awakening of man as a spiritual being there begins an active, conscious overpowering of the "dreamed plentitude" and a purposeful return to the "reality perceived", i.e., a process which could be compared to the synthesis phase of the Hegelian triad.
Culture is defined by Vydunas as the relation of the spiritual essence of humaneness with the world, as the objectivization of the former in the latter, as the spiritualization process of that world. The values born of this process are defined by the thinker as cultural values. They are in fact the values of spiritual culture. Vydunas does not deny the importance of material culture, i.e. civilization: however, he does not grant it the status of true culture. According to him this is an auxiliary product of culture. If it is turned absolute, its creation is overemphasized and is a threat to true, i.e., spiritual, culture. The signs and tendencies of such crises were discerned by Vydunas in the life of his time. Thus, both his philosophic and belles-lettres create a kind of warning about the need to stop the spread of these tendencies and to concentrate on the advance and strengthening of spiritual culture. The main goal of culture is to strengthen humaneness, i.e., the spiritual essence of man, to literate it from dependence on nature, and to achieve the maximum freedom of expression for this essence. In his opinion this is the goal for individual, nation and mankind.
Science, art and morals are considered by Vydunas the main spheres of culture, born of the relation of humane essence with the world; these are structural parts of culture. Science enables the humane essence to cognize, master and restructure the material or natural world. Through art the humane essence is embodied, materialized in created objects or works of art, in which it also turns into an object of sense perception. The work of art is as perfect, valuable in every aspect, strong, powerful, pure and moral, as is the spiritual essence, i.e., the humaneness of the artist-creator. The moral is in the core of culture. It expresses the relation of the humane essence or spirituality with the subhuman, i.e., natural, side of man and reveals the functioning of that relation in the behavior of both individuals and societies as human interrelations. Morality, in his words, can be found only where the essence of humaneness prevails at least minimally over the natural side. In the absence of that prevalence any talk of moral and culture is pointless.
In treating man as the principal subject of culture Vydunas attaches particular importance to his personal improvement. In his ethical conception, which is part of the cultural conception, he outlines the main guidelines for his improvement, i.e. shows how one has to overpower the natural elements and make one’s own self, one’s spiritual beginning stronger and more free. The guidelines proposed by Vydunas are closely related with the principles of Indian Yoga, particularly with the ways of perfection indicated in the Bhagavadgita — a selfless way of action (karma-yoga), devotion (bhakti-yoga), wisdom (jnnana-yoga), and strengthening of spirituality.
A specific place in Vydunas’s conception of culture is assigned to the nation. The thinker treats it as an indispensable section of man’s path to his unity with humanity and the cosmic universe. According to him the nation is given to man at the very being and is ingrown both naturally and spiritually. They are both linked by body, blood and psychological, mental and spiritual relations. On the basis of these relations national culture is formed, and its specific and unique features are revealed, which accumulate and are particularly clearly expressed in the language, which is described as a "national banner" or a specific, unique "song to humaneness". For the specifics of the language and the possibility for its relevant use grow genetically together with the specific body, blood, psychological, mental and spiritual properties which one receives from the nation. Broken bonds with the nation or loss of the mother tongue are a deviation from the natural course of one’s spiritual perfection. This is an unmistakable impoverishment of one’s moral and overall spiritual condition, and a disharmony with one’s own self and the world. When these bonds are severed in a significant part of the nation, in the cultured process both of the nation and of the world, destruction occurs. Vydunas arrived at such a conclusion on the basis of his earlier observation of actual life. Later he only gave this a theoretical substantiation, which resulted in the pathos of his cultural practical activity, and in a deep realization of the mission for a revitalization of the national culture.
Lithuanian Institute of Philosophy and Sociology
1. V. Mykolaitis-Putinas, Rastai (Vilnius, 1969), p. 312. Vol. 10.
2. Vydunas, "Tikrasis Vydunas", Naujas zodis (1928, Nr. 1), p. 4.
3. Vydunas, Rastai (Vilnius, 1990), p. 364. Vol. 1.
4. Vydunas, Rastai (Vilnius, 1992), p. 388. Vol. 3.
5. Ebenda, p. 394.
6. Ebenda, p. 395.
7. R. Rybakov, Burzuaznaja reformacija induizma (Moskua, 1981), P. 93.
8. Vydunas, Rastai (Vilnius, 1991), p. 109. Vol. 2.