I had recently occasion to inspect, as an official Visitor, a Vedic Tol, the only one, I believe, in this city. I found there were nine students only on the rolls—so to speak, and of these two or three only were graduates of the University. This appeared to me to be very disheartening evidence of the slight interest taken by our educated young men in the Vedic studies. I do not mean to say that all educated Hindus should be Vedic scholars—practically this would be impossible, but I am strongly of opinion that all Hindus who are willing to go through a course of “Higher Training”, as we call it, ought to possess a certain amount of knowledge, even if only second-hand knowledge, of the great Vedic Literature of our country: and that at least an appreciable proportion of them ought to be competent scholars who derive their knowledge from the original sources.
I do not forget that there are great difficulties in the way of Vedic studies. In the first place, the student of the Vedas must be a good Sanskrit scholar, and, I regret to think, that good Sanskrit scholars among our educated young men are now less numerous than they used to be before the bifurcation of studies sanctioned by the University. In the next place, not only must the student himself be a competent Sanskrit scholar, but he must also find a competent teacher for himself. By competent teacher, I mean one who has made the Vedas his special study, and has himself been trained in that study by a competent teacher. If it is rather rare to find among my educated countrymen, a good Sanskrit scholar, it is far rarer to find a duly qualified teacher. Then there is the caste difficulty—no orthodox Vedic teacher will consent to impart Vedic knowledge to a Sudra. Lastly, the life of a Vedic scholar is, in these days, a life of poverty, unless you can add to your devotion to the Vedas the energetic pursuit of some other calling more likely to soothe the pangs of hunger.
These are the difficulties in your way, but let us not forget that although a knowledge of Sanskrit is more general in this country than in Europe, there are probably more Vedic scholars in Europe than in this country. True, Europeans have not to contend with the same difficulties that we have. There are no caste distinctions there to deter the low-born Sudra from his coveted learning, and in the cold regions which are the favourite haunts of the Ocean-born Lakshmi, the pangs of hunger can hardly make themselves felt under the burden of exhaustless supply of meat and beer. What, however is more to the point is, that a race of men accustomed to solve unaided the most difficult problems of life and nature do not stand in need of teachers when any branch of knowledge has to be mastered. Most European Vedic scholars are men who have taught the Vedas to themselves. I do not mean to say that the help of such a teacher of the Vedas, as can be found among the natives of India only, would have not tended to improve the character of their Vedic knowledge. But still they are models of industry, perseverance, and energetic pursuit of knowledge, which you should keep before you when you take up in earnest such a study as Vedic Literature.