The Chief Guest for the function of the day was interacting with the students at the University of Calcutta. The University was itself established in the year 1857, on the recommendations of The Court of Directors of the East India Company. The University was modeled on the lines of University of London. The distinguished guest asked the students a simple question. "What is your opinion about your epics?" he asked, with reference to Indian epics like Ramayana, Mahabharata etc. The students answered that "It is all fictitious and meaningless". To a further question as to whether they had read them, the answer was no. The visitor exclaimed, "Don't say it is meaningless without reading them. It may be good or it may be bad. But it has meaning!"
That was nearly a hundred years ago. The situation has not changed much over the years.
Sir John George Woodroffe (1865-1936) was a British Orientalist and educated at the University College at Oxford. After his education and practice for a brief period, he was enrolled as an advocate at the Calcutta High Court. He was later appointed as the standing counsel for the Government of India. His books on Law are used as text books even now. His distinguished work took him to occupy the post of a Judge in Calcutta High Court for a period of 18 years. He was a Fellow of the Calcutta University and the above episode was during one of his visits to the University. John Woodroffe was knighted in 1915 in recognition of his invaluable services to the empire. On his return to England later he was a Reader in Indian Law at the Oxford University.
This in itself is an impressive achievement for a fact. But Sir John Woodroffe's contribution was much more. He was highly interested in the study of the Indian epics and philosophy. He learnt Sanskrit and made a study of Indian epics. His friends called him a "Public Judge and Private Student". He made a scholarly analysis of the various aspects of Indian Philosophy and was highly influenced by the richness of the diversity and multi-dimensional Yogic practices. Under his pseudonym Arthur Avalon, he translated 20 Sanskrit texts to English and was instrumental in bringing the richness of the Indian Yogic practices to the west. His book "The Serpent Power" on Kundalini Yogic practices is highly valued even today. The Garland of Letters is another of his scholarly works.
Woodroffe's lectures and essays opened the doors of Indian practices and philosophy to the westren world. His collection of essays titled "Is India Civilised?" is an example of his many essays on Indian Philosophy. He also translated Mahanirvana Tantram into English. Study of these translations influence many westren scholars later on and helped in giving wide publicity to Indian Yogic Practices in other parts of the world.
Many psychologists have used John Woodroffe's works to further the study of mind and its impact on body. Notable among them is Carl Gustav Jung, the Swiss Psychologist and Psycho-analyst. Carl Jung is recognized as the founder of Analytical Psychology. It is on record that Carl Jung was greatly influenced by the readings of the works of Sir John Woodroffe which opened the gates of Indian spiritualism and mind studies to him. Jung's principles of "Individual unconscious" and "Collective unconscious" have influence of Indian Yogic Practices.
We have to be grateful for the services of scholars like Sir John Woodroffe for bringing the treasures of Indian spiritualism to the rest of the world. It is also time that we recognize the worth in our own backyard instead of always quoting westren scholars in psychology studies.