This is the third occasion on which we have met in connexion with this Templeton Foundation. It is almost unnecessary for me to say how great is the debt that we owe to Mr. Templeton from whom we shall be hearing later in the proceedings, but without his generosity this wonderful Foundation would never have come to pass, nor would these generous awards have been made. It is only right, I think, that at the beginning of our meeting today I should pay this tribute to him and to his wife, whom we are delighted to see here today.
We meet in connexion with the award to a very great man. Only once have I had the privilege of converse with him and that was a good many years ago in New Delhi, but the impression made is not easily forgotten. I do not think it is my task this afternoon to give anything like a resume of his life, nor if I were able to do so, of his very extensive and learned writings. But there can be no doubt that in making this award it is being made to a citizen of world stature.
It cannot, I think, be said of many that they have an intimate and detailed knowledge of four great cultural traditions, but this can certainly be said of Dr. Radhakrishnan. He knows his United States, for he has very frequently travelled and lectured there; he knows his Britain, because for many years he was professor at Oxford — he gave the Upton Lectures in 1926, the Hibbert Lectures in 1929, and the Spalding Lectures a decade later, and he was one of those very few people to whom the high and distinguished award of the Order of Merit was given. He knows his Russia, for he was the Ambassador of his country to that country; and he knows, needless to say, few better, his own native country of India, and as I learnt this morning, bears as his first name the name of the village from which he sprang.
He was, as we all know, Vice-President of that great nation for a decade, and President for another. That is by any reckoning a very distinguished record. When he served his nation as Vice-President and President he did it as far more than a political figurehead. He was deeply concerned, as all his speeches show, with the relations of India with the rest of the world, and during the sad conflict in 1965 between India and Pakistan, there was no element of rancour to his utterances, but throughout he stood, as he did indeed in all his political career, for honesty and for truth. His ethical judgements and his political judgements sprang — have always sprung — from a deep religious interpretation of the universe, and I think it would be true to say that his two most honoured and revered friends were Rabindranath Tagore and Ghandi — that is a very significant couple of friendships in their influence on this great world citizen. He is well versed in our own Biblical literature and has a wide knowledge of Christian theology as well as a deep understanding of the whole tradition of India.
Anthony Eden tells how on one occasion he was visiting India and had the privilege of addressing a session of the Houses of Parliament there. But he found his task a some-what intimidating one, for he had to follow Radhakrishnan, who introduced him to his audience. Anthony Eden ex-presses his feelings in these words: ‘I felt like a little boy stumbling across a ploughed field after a leveret had shown its swiftly light paces.’
That is a very fair suggestion as to the greatness not only in speech but also in thought of him who is today being honoured with this third award of the Templeton Foundation.