(The following is the advice tendered to journalists and writers when they paid their homage to His Holiness at the Sanskrit College, Mylapore, on February 8, 1959.)
According to our Sastras, the most important branches of knowledge are the four Vedas and the six Vedangas. The Vedangas include sciences like higher mathematics, astronomy and astrology. In ancient days, there were scholars, who though not able to write their own names, were able to solve even complicated mathematical problems with the aid of beads (Chozhi சோழி). All knowledge was expressed in verses, and pupils listened to their teachers and committed these verses to memory. As a matter of fact, the Vedas are intended to be learnt by hearing. Likhita paathah. लिखित पाठ: (learning from manuscript) is considered an inferior method of learning the Veda. In that way, every person learnt from his elders or teachers a trade for earning his livelihood. As everything was memorized, much attention was not paid to reading and writing. Whatever writing had to be done, was done by scribes who specialized in writing on palm leaves. A few people, who specialized in writing, wrote only such works as were required to be read everyday.
One charge leveled against the ancient system is that general education was denied to some classes of people and that the majority of them knew only some trade and nothing else. This is an unfounded charge. While the preservation of the four Vedas was entrusted to four sages by Veda Vyasa, the Mahabharata and other Puranas were entrusted to Suta, who went about explaining these Puranas to the public. There are inscriptions which show that exposition of the Puranas was made compulsory in temples every day. The truths expounded by the Vedas, relating to spiritual knowledge, rules of conduct and forms of righteous living, and other branches of general information were thus conveyed to the public through the exposition of the Puranas. In that way, culture permeated the masses. Though illiterate, the masses were highly educated and cultured.
With the invention of printing, the old order underwent a change. The role of the pauraniks (those who discourse Puranas) of old is now taken up by journalists and writers. It should be the endeavour of journalists not only to purvey what would please the readers, but also to give them some fresh knowledge of an ennobling kind. For that purpose, journalists should be students all their life. They can convey truth in a palatable form; but care should be taken to see that what they give us is just sugar-coated and not mere sugar. On the plea that readers have a liking for a particular type of information, they should not concentrate on ephemeral things and matters purveying to the senses. They have a duty to educate their readers and, therefore, journalists, besides catering information pertaining to mundane life, should also convey knowledge having eternal and spiritual values. If journalists persist in this task, they will be able to create in their readers a taste for this kind of writing also.
In this way, journalists can serve the public truly and contribute not only to the welfare and prosperity of the people of this country, but also to world peace and happiness.
February 8, 1959.