The question has been put from more than one point of view.
To most Europeans the name [referring to the word 'arya' written in Devanagari
characters on the cover of the philosophical monthly 'Arya'] figuring
on our cover is likely to be a hieroglyph which attracts or repels according
to their temperament. Indians know the word, but it has lost for them
the significance which it bore to their forefathers. Western Philology
has converted it into a racial term, an unknown ethnological quantity
on which different speculations fix different values. Now, even among
the philologists, some are beginning to recognise that the word in its
original use expressed not a difference of race, but a difference of culture.
For in the Veda the Aryan peoples are those who had accepted a particular
type of self-culture, of inward and outward practice, of ideality, of
aspiration. The Aryan gods were the supraphysical powers who assisted
the mortal in his struggle towards the nature of the godhead. All the
highest aspirations of the early human race, its noblest religious temper,
its most idealistic velleities of thought are summed up in this single
In later times, the word Arya expressed a particular ethical and social
ideal, an ideal of well-governed life, candour, courtesy, nobility,
straight dealing, courage, gentleness, purity, humanity, compassion,
protection of the weak, liberality, observance of social duty, eagerness
of knowledge, respect for the wise and learned, the social accomplishments.
It was the combined ideal of the Brahmana and the Kshatriya. Everything
that departed from this ideal, everything that tended towards the ignoble,
mean, obscure, rude, cruel or false, was termed un-Aryan or anarya (colloq.
anari). There is no word in human speech that has a nobler history.
In the early days of comparative Philology, when the scholars sought
in the history of words for the prehistoric history of peoples, it was
supposed that the word Arya came from the root 'ar', to plough, and
that the Vedic Aryans were so called when they separated from their
kin in the north-west who despised the pursuits of agriculture and remained
shepherds and hunters. This ingenious speculation has little or nothing
to support it. But in a sense we may accept the derivation. Whoever
cultivates the field that the Supreme Spirit has made for him, his earth
of plenty within and without, does not leave it barren or allow it to
run to seed, but labours to exact from it its full yield, is by that
effort an Aryan.
If Arya were a purely racial term, a more probable derivation would
be 'ar', meaning strength or valour, from 'ar' to fight, whence we have
the name of the Greek war-god Ares, areios, brave or warlike, perhaps
even arete, virtue, signifying, like the Latin virtus, first, physical
strength and courage and then moral force and elevation. This sense
of the word also we may accept. "We fight to win sublime Wisdom, therefore
men call us warriors." For Wisdom implies the choice as well as the
knowledge of that which is best, noblest, most luminous, most divine.
Certainly, it means also the knowledge of all things and charity and
reverence for all things, even the most apparently mean, ugly or dark,
for the sake of the universal Deity who chooses to dwell equally in
all. But, also, the law of right action is a choice, the preference
of that which expresses the godhead to that which conceals it. And the
choice entails a battle, a struggle. It is not easily made, it is not
Whoever makes that choice, whoever seeks to climb from level to level
up the hill of the divine, fearing nothing, deterred by no retardation
or defeat, shrinking from no vastness because it is too vast for his
intelligence, no height because it is too high for his spirit, no greatness
because it is too great for his force and courage, he is the Aryan,
the divine fighter and victor, the noble man, aristos, best, the srestha
of the Gita.
Intrinsically, in its most fundamental sense, Arya means an effort
or an uprising and overcoming. The Aryan is he who strives and overcomes
all outside him and within him that stands opposed to the human advance.
Self-conquest is the first law of his nature. He overcomes earth and
the body and does not consent like ordinary men to their dullness, inertia,
dead routine and tamasic limitations. He overcomes life and its energies
and refuses to be dominated by their hungers and cravings or enslaved
by their rajasic passions. He overcomes the mind and its habits, he
does not live in a shell of ignorance, inherited prejudices, customary
ideas, pleasant opinions, but knows how to seek and choose, to be large
and flexible in intelligence even as he is firm and strong in his will.
For in everything he seeks truth, in everything right, in everything
height and freedom.
Self-perfection is the aim of his self-conquest. Therefore, what he
conquers he does not destroy, but ennobles and fulfils. He knows that
the body, life and mind are given him in order to attain to something
higher than they; therefore they must be transcended and overcome, their
limitations denied, the absorption of their gratifications rejected.
But he knows also that the Highest is something which is no nullity
in the world, but increasingly expresses itself here, - a divine Will,
Consciousness, Love, Beatitude which pours itself out, when found, through
the terms of the lower life on the finder and on all in his environment
that is capable of receiving it. Of that he is the servant, lover and
seeker. When it is attained, he pours it forth in work, love, joy and
knowledge upon mankind. For always the Aryan is a worker and warrior.
He spares himself no labour of mind or body whether to seek the Highest
or to serve it. He avoids no difficulty, he accepts no cessation from
fatigue. Always he fights for the coming of that kingdom within himself
and in the world.
The Aryan perfected is the Arhat. There is a transcendent
Consciousness which surpasses the universe and of which all these worlds
are only a side-issue and a by-play. To that consciousness he aspires
and attains. There is a Consciousness which, being transcendent, is
yet the universe and all that the universe contains. Into that consciousness
he enlarges his limited ego; he becomes one with all beings and all
inanimate objects in a single self-awareness, love, delight, all-embracing
energy. There is a consciousness which, being both transcendental and
universal, yet accepts the apparent limitations of individuality for
work, for various standpoints of knowledge, for the play of the Lord
with His creations; for the ego is there that it may finally convert
itself into a free centre of the divine work and the divine play. That
consciousness too he has sufficient love, joy and knowledge to accept;
he is puissant enough to effect that conversion. To embrace individuality
after transcending it is the last and divine sacrifice. The perfect
Arhat is he who is able to live simultaneously in all these three apparent
states of existence, elevate the lower into the higher, receive the
higher into the lower, so that he may represent perfectly in the symbols
of the world that with he is identified in all parts of his being, -
the triple and triune Brahman.