Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya belongs to the class of men who have a vision, who dream dreams, to whom reality is not the sordid prosaic thing we generally take it to be, but to whom meadow, grove and green, the earth we pace and every common sight' does seem 'appareled in celestial light'. He was one of those to whom was vouchsafed that knowledge, the possession of which entitles a man to be called a seer.
This knowledge, in fact, is what the Greeks called Sophia, and which was the great legacy which their thinkers have left us. It is knowledge of the universal, of the ideal of what in modern terminology is called the values, as distinct from the knowledge of the particular, the actual, the facts. The other kind of knowledge is what may be called Scientia— knowledge of particular facts and events and processes and their relations. These two types of knowledge are, broadly speaking, represented respectively by Greek and Roman culture. Their very names, one Greek and the other Latin, indicate the countries of their origin. The Greek culture is noted for its love for the universal, for its predilection for values, whereas the Roman culture is noted for giving us particular sciences dealing with different departments of life, especially the science of law. We called in our country these two kinds of knowledge by the names jnana and vijnana. Jnana meant for our ancient sages knowledge of the values. When Narada approached Sanat Kumara for instruction, he had mastered all the sciences that were known in his day, yet the latter did not hesitate to say that all that he had learnt was names, names, names, ("Yad vai kinca etat", "Whatever you have learnt is only names"). He did not possess the knowledge of values which alone could be called jnana, and which would enable one to cross over sorrow.
In Malaviyaji there was a perfect blending of these two kinds of knowledge, of idealism and realism.
As a true descendant of our Arya Rishis, Malaviyaji showed a predilection for Sophia, for that knowledge which we call Jnana and which gives us insight into the values. This represented the idealistic trait in his character. But he combined with this—and that, too, I would say, as a true Arya— scrupulous regard for the particular facts and processes of the world, in one word, realism. In fact, it is the combination in him of idealism and realism that stamps him out as a true representative of Arya Dharma, for does not the Gita say, "Yogasthah kuru karmani" ("Perform actions, while remaining in Yoga"). What is the meaning of this great teaching of the Gita ? It is nothing but this, that devotion to the ideal should be joined to a scrupulous regard for the actualities of this life. The devotee of the ideal should not live in a cloudland, but should come down from his seclusion and do his allotted share in the work of the world. The Gita speaks of this also as the union of the Yogesvara and the Dhanur dhara, the man of ideal and the man of action, and says that human society can only function properly if there is such a union. What the Gita, in fact, teaches is that everyone should be both a man of ideal and a man of action, that unless our actions, are informed by a love for the ideal, they are not worth anything. This is a truth which we realize today more acutely perhaps than at any other period of the world's history. The World-War which is just over, but the effects of which still continue, has taught us one thing, and that is, that a purely materialistic civilization, which has no regard for the values of life, however grand it may look outwardly stands on a very weak foundation, and tumbles down like a house of cards at the first touch of conflict which it itself inevitably brings forth. Equally ineffective is that idealism which has contempt for the realities of the world. If our country has suffered from anything more than any other, it is this spurious idealism which believes in monastic seclusion as the only way to salvation. I would call it spiritual isolationism, and I say deliberately that it is to this, more than to anything else, that we owe our present political and social degradation. Isolationism of every kind is bad, but this spiritual isolationism kills the very soul of a nation. In Malaviyaji, however, we had a leader who imbibed the true spirit of our Arya Dharma and embodied in his own life that philosophy of Yoga in action which is perhaps the greatest gift of our ancient culture to the world. It is to this that Malaviyaji owed his great success as a man of action. He was a practical Vedantist, in the sense in which Swami Vivekananda understood the term.
But he was more than that. He not only embodied in himself the ideal of a practical Vedantist which would give us the jnana-vijnana-triptatma of the Gita, the man who has obtained satisfaction through jnana and vijnana, but he came close to the ideal of the Bhagavata, the union of jnana, vijnana, vairagya, sraddha and bhakti, which the Bhagavata says (XI. 19 13) was the goal of life taught bv Bhishma to Yudhishthira. What is the additional element which the Bhagavata here introduces ? It is nothing else than a right dose of emotion. It is the possession of this which made Malaviyaji perhaps the most human among all our great leaders. Exclusive devotion to reason or logic makes a man rather stiff and incapable of understanding and sympathizing with the follies and foibles of his fellow-men. Not for Malaviyaji, whose heart melted at the sight of the sufferings of men and whose motto was contained in the following verse which he was very fond of quoting frequently: 'I do not seek kingdom or heaven or rebirth; the only thing I seek is the removal of the sufferings of creatures.'
Not for him was the worship of pure reason divorced from feeling, which would make him lose that living touch with ailing, suffering humanity, the maintenance of which he viewed as man's duty and prerogative. In this respect he was one with poet Tagore, who said. ''Science may include in its field of knowledge the starry world and the world beyond it; philosophy may try to find some universal principle which is at the root of all things, but religion inevitably concentrates itself on humanity, which illumines our reason, inspires our wisdom, stimulates our love, claims our intelligent service'' (Religion of Man)….
Malaviyaji is not dead. He lives in his deeds. He lives especially in that great work of his, the Benaras Hindu University, which has been rightly called one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century. We cannot show our love for him better than by making this great institution grow from strength to strength, from glory to glory. Malaviyaji devoted the whole of his life to the cause of Hindu religion and culture…. But if we really cherish his memory and not merely do lip service to it, we have to take it up and carry it on in the way in which he would have carried it on, by selfless service and unflinching devotion.