“Hinduism is the Union of reason and intuition that cannot be defined but is only to be experienced.”
“Our age is still in desperate need of that which religion alone can give” – Dr.S.radhakrishnan.
Hinduism is a religious way of life – not just a way of life sans religion. It is being frequently said even by quite a learned people that Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life. Bharat is a country which is deeply imbued in religion – replete with centuries old religious practices and traditions followed throughout the year and although the life by millions of people right from morning till one goes to bed with prayers. In fact, as Swami Vivekananda puts it that religion and spirituality are our national ideals. As such being the fact of life, one thing that always baffled me is how can there be a life without a religion especially in our country. I am furnishing below a table showing the basic tenets of Hinduism which an average Hindu believes in and follows invariably:
|Belief systems||Behavioral patterns based on belief|
|1. Soul (Atma) immortal and eternal||Death is not the end of life and another life awaits him and patterns or conducts his ethical behavior accordingly with good actions|
I ………… Nitya Naimittaka
|Nityakarmas Daily offer of prayers and pujas to Gods and Goddesses in the house at a particular place allotted for the purpose
Naimttaka karmas observing and offering pujas on special occasions with the idea of propitiating gods and Goddesses which are based on specific rituals.
|3. Rebirth(Punarjanma)||Cycle of births – Man undergoes a series of births in accordance with his prarabdha karma and evolves towards reaching Moksha.|
|4. Samsara……………..||The world in which man undergoes a series of births and deaths in accordance with his karma of good and bad actions.|
|5. Dharma ( Duty)||Performance of Duty in accordance with one’s profession, position as a member of a family as father/ mother/ son/daughter/ as husband/ wife/ and as neighbor, as a householder or as a student.|
|6. Moksha (liberation)
Four fold spiritual pathI———–I———-I———-I
Jnana Karma Bhakti sanyasa
|Liberation from the cycle of births and deaths in the samsara after exhausting all the accumulated (Samchita) karma and merging in the Absolute by following any one of the four fold spiritual path of Jnana, karma, Bhakti and Samsara|
|7. Four fold purushardhas….
Dharma Ardha kama Moksha
|The four fold goals of life – dharma, ardha, kama and moksha to be followed according to smritis (social codes) and srutis (scriptures)|
|8. Four stages of life IA.Brahmacharya (Student life)B.Gruhasta (Householder)
C.Vanaprasta (Life of a recluse)
D.Sanyasa (Life of a monk in pursuit of spiritual liberation)
|To be followed according to the four stages of life as the smrutis prescribe with stage specific rituals.|
|9. Four –fold vanaprasta system
|The four – fold non-stratified structural interdependently functional classification of society based on occupational differentiation and division of labour in accordance with innate abilities and aptitudes for smooth interaction between social groups as economic units keeping in view the production and distribution of goods and services.|
|10. Belief in Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavadgita, epics (Ramayana and Mahabharata) puranas (Bhagavatam etc.||Recitation of some portions of these daily.Pilgrimage to holy places(punya kshetras)
Bathing in holy rivers on auspicious days.
Visiting temples for worship and offer prayers.
A holistic and diagrammatic representation of Hindu society which is highly organized, structured and classified horizontally and vertically is given below:
ORGANISATION OF HINDU SOCIETY & CULTURE.
|Spiritual four – Fold paths||Jnana (knowledge)||Karma (Action or karma)||Bhakti Devotion||Sanyasa Renunciation|
|Four-fold Purusharthas (goals of life)||Dharma (Duty)||Ardha (Worldly prosperity)||Kama (Seeking the Pleasures of Life)||Moksha (liberation)|
|Four fold stages of life||Brahmacharya (Learning stage as student)||Gruhastha ( married life as a householder)||Vanaprastha (Leading Dharmic life in old age)||Sanyasa (Life of a monk aimed at spiritual self realization)|
|Four – Fold –classification of society.(varna system based on aptitude).||Brahmana (Priests)Spiritual teachers and cultural educators||Kshatriya (warriors)Kings and rulers and defenders of Dharma||Vaisyas (Traders and Enterpreneurs)||Sudra (workforce engaged in service & Manufacturing)|
The above chart shows that there are two aspects to Hindu religion
- To a large extent it is culturally specific. In other words, there is a mingling between religion creating a culture and that culture a life of its own which impacts religion.
- Another thing about Hindu religion is that it is highly personal and individualistic. What has come about in our country is that its culture is deeply influenced by its religion.
It is a faith which is highly individualistic. It accommodates the fact that each person’s religion is in some way personal. This faith in religion is part of great historic traditions which have bound people together in common beliefs and forms of worship.
From the table shown above regarding belief system
And behavioral patterns it is clear systematic institutionalization and rituals are necessary for the learned as well as for the lay – the not so learned. The induction of God-hood in the images of Rama,Krishna, Lakshmi, Siva, or Durga is to have a visual conception of the divinity in its many splendored attitudes. When a Hindu worships an idol, it is not the stone that he or she worships but the God or Goddess that has been instilled that and attain the realization of the Supreme through devotion and love.
Saints like Ramananda, Tulasidas, Chaitanya, Tukaram and Maratha saints, Meerabai representing devotional movements stress the desire to get near God through a personal inward experience. Kabir, Nanank and Sikh gurus also belong to the devotional school. Ramakrishna paramahamsa, Swami Vivekananda, Aurobindo and Ramana Maharshi are among the modern spiritual leaders.
The yoga sutra gives a detailed account of the place of prayer, abstraction and contemplation in the pattern of spiritual life. Throughout the history of Hinduism the stress is more on the renewal of life and the attainment of transcendental consciousness. Many religious people in our country aim at attaining the type of consciousness in which the distinctions of subject and object are fused into an undivided state. In the state of ecstasy are transcendental consciousness the individual soul feels itself invaded by and merged with an enfolding presence, exalted with a sense of having found what it always sought.1
1. S.Radhakrishnan, “Recovery of Faith”, Hind pocket books,Delhi1952.P.105.
RELIGION AS EXPERIENCE OF REALITY
Hinduism believes in the reality of spiritual experience. Experience is the fruit of knowledge. Knowledge should lead to realization in which we move to another intensity, a deeper communion. All life is an encounter, and the supreme encounter is of man with God. Man can not know God unless he comes into contact with him in a personal encounter as an object of worship. In chapter XI of Bhagavad Gita Arjuna sees God as the entire universe. Arjuna is blinded by the dazzling brilliance. The veil is rent. The divine bursts the limits of space, cracks the very bounds of existence. The divine fills the sky, the universe, space. The world coursed through him like a cataract.
Religion is the direct apprehension of the supreme. It is attaining a sate of illumination. While the reality is omnipresent the human being is able to apprehend it directly in his own inmost being. This principle is enunciated in the Upanishadic maxim “tat tvam asi” – That art Thou. True religion should be distinguished from near knowledge of dogmas or ritualistic piety. Meditation is the way to self knowledge. All spiritual experiences have certain characteristics in common. First, the experience is given. It can not be induced by will or prolonged by effort. It does not answer the bidding of the will. It occurs when we least expect it for a fleeting movement no longer than the winking of an eye or the rising of the hand. Our scriptures compare the spiritual experience with a flash of lightening, which suddenly appears in the middle of a dark blue cloud (neela toyada- Madhyastha-vidyullekheva bhaswara). The capacity of any individual to receive the experience may be affected by age, by psychological make up and cultural milieu. Though all are capable of it, few put forth the effort needed for it. Secondly whatever the contents of the experience the subject is absolutely convinced that it is a revelation of reality. It bears an authority within itself an authority of unquestionable and immeasurable power. It is felt to be a revelation from the fountain of life itself. It is illumination, a state of being. There is a sense of release. Thirdly, since the God id the ‘wholly other’, human language is not an adequate means for expressing it. The direct apprehension of reality is uncommunicable.3 The individual feels that reality is revealed to him which in the normal state is hidden from him. It is experienced as numinous, clothed in glory, charged with an intensity of being, An intense being there ness. Religion helps to free the sleeping forces of the enslaved spirit. It awakens the real in man and recreated the being it self.4
Man realizes his finitude as he is overcome by anxiety between the prior knowledge of his essential being and the awfulness of the possibility of his non-being. In the awareness of his finitude is found the awareness of his potential infinity. This awareness of potential infinity leads to a knowledge of eternity. Man realizing his position of estrangement from the ground of Being (the Absolute), struggle for reunification with it. Each one has to realize for himself, unveil the God in him. When we cleanse ourselves and attain in a status of perfect integrity we become divinized in our being.
RELIGION AND SOCIAL RELATIONS
Belief and behavior
Religion insists on behavior based on belief. Religion is often confused with the mechanical participation in the rites or passive acquiescence in the dogmas. Many of those who observe the forms of religion, the gestures of faith, the conventions of piety do not model their lives on the percepts they profess. We keep up the forms of religion, which seems to be of the nature of play- acting. Thus the inadequacy of religion is evident from the disparity between outward allegiance and inward betrayal.
3.S.radhakrishnan,’Religion in a changing world’, George Allen and Unwin, 1966, PP.104-05.
4. OP.cit., P.106.
Orthodoxy is not confined to the defining of faith. It includes the living of it. We must live religion in truth and deed and not merely profess it in words. There is a difference to-day between our belief and our behavior. Belief without behavior is dead. If religion is not dynamic and pervasive, if it does not penetrate every form of human life and influence every type of human activity, it is only a veneer and not a reality. If, on the other hand, we believe that our faith is wide spread and its adherents are confirming their acts to the ideals their profess, then religion is invaluable as a means for the improvement of the individual and society.
It is difficult to draw a line of distinction between religion and social life. Social organization rests ultimately on a series of decisions taken by human beings as to the manner in which they and their followers shall live. These decisions are matters of spiritual discernment while actions to implement require technical knowledge and social sense. Though religion is not a social reform movement, a large part of one’s life is spent in society. A stable social order is the ground work of civilized life. Religion is a social cement, a way in which men express their aspirations and find solace for their frustrations. Religion defends the established social order. By setting up a gulf between the sacred and the secular, by developing an insensitiveness to the tragic fate of the world, by withdrawing from the scene of mankind’s agony …religion is robbed of the possibility of social regeneration5 Our age is still in desperate need which religion alone can give.
5.S.Radhakrishnan, “Recovery of Faith”, Hind Pocket books, Delhi, P-26.
The predicament of Religion in a changing world
Religions have helped us to realize that there is more to life than the satisfaction of needs. They have given us support to our values. Hinduism holds that the two sides of the man’s nature – the rational and the spiritual should work together. In contrast the religion in the west is struggling to come to terms with the spirit of reason. With Rene Descartes human reason became supreme and a mechanistic view of the universe developed. Matter regarded as rigid and immutable entities is resolved into energy by Einstien’s theory of relativity and the principle of uncertainty. Reality is found in the realm of relationships. Science has made religion out of date. While the spirit of science is essentially empirical, the realities with which religion deals are outside experience all together.
The complex ideas of modern science are causing a complete
inner crisis. The traditional proofs for the existence of God, the ontological argument, the arguments from natural law and design are examined from a new stand point. Able, courageous and upright persons find it difficult to accept traditional religion. This is more the product of their intellectual integrity than of wickedness of heart. Traditional views lost their authority and psychological justification.
The positivist demands that we remain within the bounds of experience. Accordance to logical positivism nothing can be true or even meaningful unless it can be understood in terms of sense experience. In ancient Greek thought Protagoras held this view, and Plato criticized it.
Hume holds that there can be no true or meaningful assertions about God, soul and immortality or objective moral standards. He discards beliefs about these as “sophistry and illusion”. For, only two types of statements had a meaning: 1. Statements which are capable of being verified or falsified by empirical observation; 2. Statements of logic and mathematics which are tautologous.
Kant rejects Hume’s view. He holds that we can not look for the reasons of phenomena from with in the world of phenomena. If we get beyond phenomenal to the noumenal world, we get into a region where the categories of explanation do not apply. In the ‘critic of pure reason’, Kant affirms that the limits of sense experience are the limits of our knowledge about the world. There fore we can not have a science of metaphysics. He denies to process of thought any access to ultimate truth which lies beyond the spear of the phenomenally known. God, freedom and immortality are for him are postulates of moral life and not objects of knowledge. Ernest Mach interprets Kant as rejecting any explanation as un scientific since it goes beyond experience.
History of philosophy is nothing but an account of the intellectual follies and confusions of mankind. At best, philosophy is a technique for clearing up confusions. It investigates the logical structure of language and not its content. It is a type of ‘ secularist scholasticism’ with a distrust of all categorical certainties.
THE IDEAL OF A UNIVERSAL RELIGION
An analysis of religio-spiritual content contained by major religions is provided by Swami Vivekananda in one of his lectures on ‘Ideal of a universal religion’ given at Pasadena in California (USA) in the year 1900 is quite enlightening. He says : “ In every religion there are three parts. First there is a philosophy which presents the whole scope of that religion, setting forth its basic principles, the goal and the means of reaching it. The second part is mythology, which is philosophy made concrete. It consists of legends relating to the lives of men or super natural beings… it is the abstractions of philosophy concretised in more or less imaginary lives of men and super natural beings. The third part is the ritual. This is still more concrete and is made up of forms and ceremonies, various physical attitudes, flowers and incense, and many other things that appealed to the senses. In these consists the ritual… All recognized religions have these three elements. Some lay more stress on one, some on another”6
6. Swami Vivekananda, “Jnana Yoga”, Advaita Ashrama, Kolkata.
If we take these three aspects together and consider them one by one we will find that there is no agreement between religions as far as its philosophy, mythology and ritual are concerned. No body in the world is able to make out the fine distinction between history and mythology. All such stories to whatever religion they may belong, are really mythological, mixed up occasionally it may be, with a little history. Even in rituals, there is no universal symbol, which can command general recognition and acceptance. How is it possible, then, to have a universal form of religion? That, however, already exists, let us examine what it is.
Various are our faces. But no two faces are alike, yet we are all human beings. Where is this one humanity? Among all these faces there is an abstract humanity which is common to all. We may not find it when we try to grasp it, to sense it and to actualize it and yet we know for certain that it is there – this humanity which is common to us all. It is through this generalized entity that we see everybody as a man or a woman. So it is with this universal religion which runs through all these various religions of the world in the form of God; it must and does exist through eternity. ‘ He is the thread that runs through all these pearls’ and each pearl is a religion. Such are the different pearls, and the lord is the thread that runs through all of them; only the majority of the mankind are entirely unconscious of it.
Unity in variety is the plan of the universe. As existence we are one with the whole universe. That universal existence is God-the ultimate unity in the universe. In Him we are all one. At the same time, in manifestation these differences must always remain. We find them that if by the idea of a universal religion it is meant that one set of doctrines should be believed in by all mankind, it is wholly impossible. It can never be. There can never be a time when all faces will be the same. Again, if we accept that there will be one universal mythology, that is also impossible, it can not be. Neither there can be one universal ritual. Such a state of things can never come into existence- if it ever did the world would be destroyed, because variety is the first principle of life. It is differentiation that makes the formed beings. The unity of the same ness can come only when this universe is destroyed. It is this difference, this differentiation which is the very soul of our progress, the soul of our thought. This must always be .
By the ideal of a universal religion, it does not mean any one universal philosophy or any one universal mythology, or any one universal ritual held by all alike. What is of utmost importance is to know at this juncture is that this world must go on working, wheel with in wheel, this intricate mass of machinery most complex and most wonderful. What we can do is to make it run smoothly, lessen the friction and grease the wheels by recognizing the variation. Just as we recognize unity by our very nature, so also we must recognize variation. We must learn that truth may be expressed in a hundred thousand ways and each of these ways is true as far as it goes. We must learn that the same thing can be viewed from a hundred different stand points and yet be the same thing. Even so is it with the Lord. Through high philosophy are low, through the most exalted mythology are the grossest, through the most refined ritualism or arrant fetishism, every sect, every soul, every nation, every religion consciously, is the struggling upward, towards God; Every vision of truth that man has, is a vision of Him, and of none else. This is the only recognition of universality that we can get.
It appears all right theoretically. But is there any way of practically working out this harmony in religion. Hundreds of attempts have been made in India, in Alexandria, in Europe, in China, in Japan, in Tibet and lastly in America to formulate a harmonious religious creed, to make all religions to come together in love. They have all failed, because they did not adopt any practical plan. Many have admitted that all religions of the world are right, but they show no practical way of bringing them together so as to enable each of them to maintain its own individuality in the conflux. That plan is alone practical which does not destroy the individuality of any man in religion and at the same time shows him a point of union with all others. But so far all the plans of a religious harmony that have been tried, while proposing to take all the various views of religion, have, in practice, tried to bind them all down to a few doctrines, and so have produced more new sects, fighting, struggling and pushing against each other.
In this context Swami Vivekananda exhorts:
I have also my little plan. I do not know whether it will work or not… I would ask mankind to recognize this maxim, ‘Do not Destroy’. Iconoclastic reformers do no good to the world. Break not, pull not any thing down, but build.7
God is the centre of all religions and each one of us is moving towards Him; Then it is certain that all of us must reach that centre; But until we reach there , there will be differences. Each one, according to his nature, travels along one of these ways, and another along another and shall surely come to the centre because each one of us is naturally growing and developing according to his own nature and each one will in time come to know the highest truth. Spiritual growth must come from inside. There is no other teacher to make us spiritual than our own soul.
There are thousands and thousands of varieties of minds and inclinations. A thorough generalization of them is impossible. But for practical purposes they can be classified into four categories. First there is active man, the worker; he wants to work. His aim is to work- to build hospitals, do charitable deeds to plan and organize. The second category is the emotional man who loves the sublime, to adore love and the God of love. The third category is the mystique whose mind wants to analyze his own self, to understand its own self, to understand the human mind, the forces that are working inside and how to know, manipulate, and obtain control over them. This is the mystical mind. The fourth category is the philosopher who wants to weigh every thing and use his intellect beyond the possibilities of human philosophy.
Religion to satisfy the largest portion of mankind, must be able to supply food for all these various types of mind and where this capability is wanting, the existing sex will become one sided. This is the condition of religion. The world is in need of a religion that will be equally acceptable to all minds; it must be equally philosophic, equally emotional, equally mystique and equally conducive to action. A religion that will be able to show how to realize the philosophy that teaches us that this world is one, that there is but one existence in the Universe. A combination of all these elements of philosophy
7. Swami Vivekananda, “Jnana Yoga”, Advaita Ashrama, Kolkata.
23rd edn.2001. Ibid
Mysticism, emotion, and of work will be the ideal of the nearest approach to a universal religion. To become harmoniously balanced in all these four directions will be an ideal religion. And this religion is attained by Yoga-union. To the worker, it is union between men and the whole of humanity; To the mystique, between the lower and higher self; To the lover union between himself and the God of love; and to the philosopher it is the union of all existence. This is what is meant by yoga. There are four divisions of yoga. The man who seeks after this kind of union is called a Yogi. The worker is called Karmayogi. He who seeks union through love is called Bhakti Yogi. He who seeks it through mysticism is called Raja Yogi. And he who seeks it through philosophy is called The Jnana Yogi.
Raja-yoga is the controlling of the mind. Raja-yogais the psychological way to union. The power of concentration is the only king to the treasure house of spiritual knowledge. The system of Raja-yoga deals almost exclusively with this which has to be practiced under the careful supervision- a teacher who is a realized soul himself. He also decides this particular Patanjali Yoga system suits your body-mind status which you have acquired in this birth from the accumulated karma of your previous births .
Karma-Yoga is the attainment of God through work. There are many persons in society who seem to be born for some sort of activity who have but one idea, concretised in work, visible and tangible. There is a science for this kind of life also. Each one of us is engaged in some work, but the majority of us fritter away the greater portion of our energies because we do not know the secret of work. Karma-Yoga explains the secret and teaches where and how to work, how to employ to the greatest advantage the largest part of our energies in the work that is before us. But with this secret we must take into consideration the great objection against work, namely that it causes pain. All misery and pain come from attachment. You want to do work, you want to do good to a human being; and it is ninety to one that human being whom you have helped will prove ungrateful and go against you; and the result to you is pain. Such things deter mankind from working and it spoils a good portion of the work and energy of mankind- this fear of pain and misery. Karma-Yoga teaches us how to work for work’s sake, un attached without caring who is helped and what for. The Karma-Yogi works because it is his nature, because he feels that it is good for him to do so, and he has no object beyond that. His position in this world is that of a giver, and he never cares to receive anything. He knows that he is giving and does not ask for anything in return and, therefore, he alludes the grasp of misery. The grasp of pain, whenever it comes is the result of reaction of “attachment”
Bhakti-Yoga is meant for the person who is of emotional nature, the lover. He wants to love God, he relies upon and uses all sorts of rituals, flowers, incense, beautiful temples, forms and all such things. The worlds greatest spiritual joints have all been produced only by those religious sects which have been in possession of very rich mythology and ritual. The greatest men, the most wonderfully developed in spirituality have all come through the discipline of these rituals. God to them is something tangible the only thing that is real; they feel, hear; and see Him and love Him. Bhakti-Yoga teaches us how to love, without any ulterior motives, loving the God because it is good to do so, not for going to heaven, wealth or anything. It teaches us that love itself is the highest recompense of love-that God Himself is love. It teaches us to pay all kinds of tribute to God as the creator, the omnipresent, Almighty Ruler the Father and the Mother. Where ever there is love it is He. Where ever the heart expands, He is there manifested. This is what the Bhakti-Yoga teaches.
The Jnana-Yogi is the philosopher, the thinker. He wants to go beyond the visible. His soul wants to go beyond all that into the heart of being, by saying reality as it is, by realizing It, by being It, By becoming one with that Universal Being. To him God is the life of his life. The soul of his soul. God is his own Self. He is the basis of His life. “Nay Thou art That”. This is what Jnana-Yoga teaches. It tells man that he is essentially Divine. It shows to mankind the real unity of being and that each one of us is the Lord God Him self manifested on earth. He is life of this Universe, present in the atom and in Sons and Moons.
It is imperative that all these four yogas should be carried out in practice; Mere theories about them will not do any good. First we have to hear them reverentially by sitting at the feet of an accomplished Guru sought by us after a life long search for a spiritual guru who is himself a realized soul. We have to reason the thoughts out, impress them on our minds and we have to meditate on them, realize them until at last they become our whole life. No longer will religion then remain a bundle of ideas or theories nor an intellectual assent; It will enter into our very life.
As Swami Vivekananda puts it aptly; “By means of intellectual assent we may to day subscribe to many foolish things and change our minds altogether tomorrow. But the true religion never changes. Religion is realization; not talk, nor doctrine, nor theories, however beautiful they may be. It is being and becoming, not hearing and acknowledging; it is the whole soul becoming changed into what it believes”8.This is the ideal of universal religion.
On realization of a universal religion
While giving a lecture on “on the way to Realization of a universal Religion” Swami Vivekananda said;
“No search has been dearer to human heart than that which brings to us light from God. No study has taken so much of human energy… as the study of the human soul, of God and of human destiny. However immersed we are in our daily occupations, in our ambitions, in our work, in the midst of the greatest of our struggles, sometimes there will come a pause; the mind stops and wants to know something beyond this world. Sometimes it catches glimpses of a realm beyond the senses and struggle to get at it is the result. Thus it has been through out ages, in all countries man has wanted to look beyond, wanted to expand himself; and all that we call progress , evolution, has always been measured by that one search for human destiny, the search for God”9
Man’s spiritual struggle is represented by various religions. There is a tremendous power in all the great religions of the world. Each one of them is progressive. Burt all religions sometimes advance and some times decline. Any attempt to bring all humanity to one method of thinking in spiritual matters will
8. Swami Vivekananda, “Jnana Yoga” Advaita Ashrama, Kolkata, P.342.
9. Swami Vivekananda, “Jnana Yoga” Advaita Ashrama, Kolkata, P.343
Be a failure. If all of us think exactly the same thoughts, there would be no thoughts for us to think. It is the clash of thought, the differentiation of thought that awakes thought. So long as mankind thinks there will be sects. Variation is the sign of life. There will be as many sects as human beings and each one will have his own method, his individual method of thought in religion. Every religion has a soul behind it, and that soul may differ from the soul of another religion. But they are not contradictory; The are supplementary. Each religion takes up one part of the great universal truth, and spends its whole force in embodying and typifying that part of the great truth. It is, therefore, addition, not exclusion. System after system arises, each one embodying, and ideals must be added to ideals and this is the march of humanity. Man never progresses from error to truth, from truth to truth, from lesser truth to higher truth-but it is never from error to truth. It is like looking at the truth from different stand point which vary according to our birth, education and surroundings. We are viewing truth getting as much of it as the circumstances permit, coloring the truth with our own heart, understanding it with our own intellect and grasping it with our own mind. We can only know as much of truth as is related to us, as much of it as we are able to receive. This makes the difference between man and man and occasions some times even contradictory ideas. At the same time we all belong to the same great universal truth.
All these religions are different forces of God, working for the good of mankind. They are all spiritual forces. Each religion is a living religion and intelligenyly on the m arch. Just as the universal brotherhood is already existing so also is universal religion. Each religion represents a particular excellence – something which is its soul. The fact that all these religions are living today proves that they have kept their mission intact – the great mission for which they came for.
Islam came to preach the world the practical brother hood of all belonging to their faith. This is the essential part of Islam. The central idea of Christianity is; “ watch and pray, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand” – which means purify your minds and be ready. Christian countries prepare themselves for the coming of the Lord by trying to help others, building Hospitals and so on. So long as the Christians keep to their ideals, their religion lives.
The one national idea of Hindus is spirituality. A lot of energy is being spent in refining the idea of God they are trying to define the ideal of soul so that no earthly touch might mar it. The spirit must be divine. The spirit understood as spirit must not be made into a man. The idea of unity, the realization of God, the Omni present is preached through out. They think it is all non-sense to say that he lives in heaven and all that. It is a mere human and anthropomorphic idea. All the heaven that existed is now and hear. One moment in infinite time is as good as any other moment. They think that religion begins when one has realized something. It is not believing in doctrines, nor giving intellectual assent, nor making declarations. They say that if there is a God, one has to see Him to believe Him and one has to struggle to see Him and renounce the world and spend the whole life for this one object. Renunciation and spirituality are the two great ideas of India and it is because India clings to these ideas their religion lives.
There are various ways of mind. One may be matter -of-fact, common sense rationalist. He will not care for forms and ceremonies. He wants intellectual hard ringing facts. They alone will satisfy him. There are puritans who will not allow a picture or a statue in their place of worship like Islam. But there is another man who is more artistic. He wants a great deal of art-beauty of lines and curves, the colors, flowers, forms; He wants candles, lights and all the insignia, paraphernalia of ritual, that he may see God. His mind takes God in those forms. Then there is a devotional man whose soul is crying for God; He has no other idea but to worship God and to praise him. Then there is philosopher, standing out side all these, mocking at them about their ideas of God.
They may laugh at one another, but each one has a place in this world.
All these various types are necessary. An ideal religion must be broad and large enough to supply food for all these minds. It must supply the strength of philosophy to the philosopher, the devotee’s heart to the worshipper, to the ritualist it will give all that the most marvelous symbolism can convey, to the poet it will give as much of heart as he can take in. To make such a broad religion, we have to go back to the time when religions began and take them all in. The watch word is acceptance not exclusion. Pray God with a Muslim in the mosque; enter church with a Christian to kneel before the crucifix, sit down in meditation with a Hindu who is trying to see the light which enlightens the heart of every one.
God’s book is not finished. A continuous revelation is going on. It is a marvelous book of spiritual revelations of the world. The Bible, the Veda’s, The Koran, and all other sacred books are but so many pages, and an infinite number of pages remain yet to be unfolded. Let us stand in the present but open our selves to the infinite future. Let us take in all that has been in the past, enjoy the light of the present and open every window of the heart for all that will come in the future. Salutations to all the prophets of the past and to all that are to come in the future. Some times it is better to dream a dream than die on hard facts. Great truths even in a dream are good, better than bad facts. So, let us dream a dream .
THE NECESSITY OF RELIGION
Religion is a potent force that moulds the destinies of human race. The bonds of religion are stronger than the bonds of place. All the ancient religions have their origin in the super natural. Two theories are accepted regarding the origin of religion: One is the spirit theory of religion and the other is the evolution of the idea of the infinite. Some maintain the ancestor worship is the beginning of religious ideas. Some others maintain that religion originates in the personification of nature. There are scholars who from the vedic literature show that religion originated in nature worship. The human mind seems to struggle to get a peep behind the scenes. The dawn, the evening the hurricane, the stupendous and gigantic forces of nature, its beauties, these have exercised the human mind and it aspires to go beyond, to understand something about them. In the struggle they endow these phenomena with personal attributes, giving them souls and bodies, some times beautiful, and sometimes transcendent. Every attempt ends by these phenomena becoming abstractions whether personalized or not. Thus religion has its origin in the personification of nature. The whole mythology of Greeks, ancient Germans, the Scandinavian and the Aryans is simply this abstracted nature worship.
These two views, though they seem to be contradictory, can be reconciled on a third basis which is the real germ of religion. It can be called as the struggle to transcend the limitation of the senses. Man goes to seek for the spirits of his ancestors-the spirits of the dead. He wants to get a glimpse of what is there after the body is dissolved or he desires to understand the power working behind the stupendous phenomena of nature. Which ever of these is the case, one thing is certain, that he tries to transcend the limitations of the senses. He can not remain satisfied with his senses; He wants to go beyond them. The explanation need not be mysterious. It seems very natural that the firstglimpse of religion come through dreams. The first idea of immortality man may get is through dreams. Dream is a wonderful state of mind. Children as they are very close to divinity find very little difference between dreaming and their awakened state. Then it is more natural to find that even during the sleeping state, when the body is apparently dead, the mind goes on with all its intricate workings. Then it is no wonder that men will naturally come to the conclusion at once that when this body is resolved for ever the same working will go on. This would be a more natural explanat6ion of the super natural and through this dream idea the human minds rises to higher and higher conceptions.
Thus the search had begun and the search was inward. Man continued enquiring more deeply into the different stages of the mind and discovered higher states of mind than the waking or the dreaming. This state is called ecstasy or inspiration. In all organized religions, their prophets declared to have gone into states of mind in which they came face to face with a new series of facts relating to what is called the spiritual kingdom. They realized things there much more intensely than the facts in the waking state. For instance the rishis of veda’s were sages who realized certain facts which they conveyed in vedic hymns. A rishi is a seer of mantras- thoughts expressed poetically in the form of hymns. These rishi’s declared that they have realized certain super sensuous facts. These facts they proceeded to put on record in the form of Vedas. The same truth is declared amongst both Jews and Christians. The Buddhists, similarly find an eternal moral law and that moral law was not reasoned out in our sense of the word . Buddha found it, discovered it, in a super sensuous state. He sat in penance under the Bodhi tree until he reached that super sensuous state of mind. All his teachings came through this and not through intellectual cogitations.
Thus a tremendous statement has been made by all religions. The human mind at certain moments, transcends not only the limitations of the senses but also the power of reasoning. It then comes face to face with facts which it could never have sensed, could never have reasoned out. These facts are the basis of all the religions of the world. Of course, we have the right to challenge these facts and to put them to the test of reason. Nevertheless, all the existing religions of the world claim for the human mind this peculiar power of transcending limits of the senses and the limits of reason; and this power they put forward as a statement of fact.
We find one characteristic common to all these religions. They are all abstractions as contrasted with concrete discoveries of physics. In all the highly organized religions take the purest form of abstraction, either in the form of an abstracted presence, as an omnipresent Being, as an abstract personality called God, as a amoral law or the form of an Abstract Essence
Underlying every existence. We are always struggling to rise up to that ideal. Every human being as ideal of infinite power, every human being as an ideal of infinite pleasure.
This pursuit of the infinite, this struggle to grasp the infinite is most glorious that man can make. The subject being infinite, that plane is the highest and the pleasure there is the highest for those who can appreciate it. So, even on the utilitarian ground that man is to seek for pleasure, he should cultivate religious thought, for it is the highest pleasure that exists. Thus religion as a study seems to be absolutely necessary. It is the greatest motive power that moves the human mind. No other ideal can put into us the same mass of energy as the spiritual. But the world-movers, whose life ignites others with a spiritual fire have that spiritual background. Their motive power came from religion. Religion is the greatest motive power for realizing the infinite energy. In building up character, in making for everything that is good and great, in bringing peace to others and peace to ones own self, religion is the highest power and, therefore, ought to be studied from that stand point. Religion must be studied on a broader basis. All narrow, limited, fighting ideas of religion have to go. That each nation should have its own particular God and think that every other is wrong is a superstition that should belong to the past. All such ideas must be abandoned. As the human mind broadens, its spiritual steps also broaden accordingly. The time has already come when a man cannot record a thought without its reaching to all corners of the earth; So the future religions of the world have to become as universal and as wide.
The religious ideals of the future must embrace all that exists in the world and is good and great and at the same time have infinite scope for future development. All that was good in the past must be preserved; and the doors must be kept open for future editions. Religions must also be inclusive and not look down with contempt upon one another because their particular ideals of God are different. The personal idea of God or the impersonal, the infinite, moral law-these all have to come under the definition of religion. When the religions have become thus broadened, their power for good will have increased a hundred fold. . Religions, have tremendous power in them, have often done more injury to the world than good, simply on account of their narrowness and limitations.
We find many sects and societies with almost the same ideals, fighting each other, because one does not want to set forth those ideas in the same way as another. Therefore, religions have to broaden. Religious ideas will have to become universal, vast and infinite; and then alone we shall have the fullest play of religion, for the power of religion as only just begun to manifest in the world. Hence it is wrong to think that religions are dying out or that spiritual ideas are dying out of the world.
Swami Vivekananda has very poignantly said in this context;
“To me it seems that religions have just begun to grow. The power of religion broadened and purified is going to penetrate every part of human life. When we come to the real spiritual universal concept, then, …religion will become real and living and it will come into our very nature, live in our every movement, penetrate into every pore of our society and be infinitely more a power for good than before”.
So long as religion was in the hands of a chosen few or of a body of priests, it was in temples, churches, books, dogmas, ceremonials, forms and rituals. What is needed is a fellow-feeling between with a different types of religion, seeing that they all stand or fall together, a fellow-feeling which springs from mutual esteem and mutual respect and not the condescending, patronizing, niggeredly expression of good-will, unfortunately in vogue at the present time with many. To bring about this harmony, both will have to make concessions, some times very large, sometimes painful, but each will find itself the better for the sacrifice and more advanced in truth. And in the end, the knowledge which is confined within the domain of time and space will meet and become one with that which is beyond them both, where the mind and senses cannot reach the ABSOLUTE, the INFINITE, the ONE without a second.
The Problem of Belief in Religion
The growing scientific outlook, an awakened social conscience and interest in world unity have created the problem of unbelief in matters of religious faith in our society. Religion, in order to, survive has to satisfy the scientific temper of our age and sympathize with its social aspirations and health foster the unity of the world. The scientific and technological achievements have given us an amazing mastery over the material environment. Religion, as it is generally understood, is opposed to the spirit of science. The method of science is empirical while that of religion is dogmatic. Science does not rely on authority, but appeals to communicable evidence that any trained mind can evaluate. If we esteem freedom of enquiry, we find that it is incompatible with authoritarianism which is the dominant feature of religion.
There is an element of universality about scientific views which is not to be found in religious doctrines. Scientists recognize no national geographic boundaries. They exchange information with fellow scientists in other lands. Every religion claims that its scripture is the word of God and so infallible. The inerrancy of the scripture is inconsistent with the spirit of science. Many of the scriptural texts are not to be taken literally. No religion can survive the discovery that it is rooted in beliefs which have no historical basis or spiritual reality. To divest religion of dogma, tradition and myth is to make it empty. Religious belief is subject to relativity. Therefore, religious authorities condemn all attempts which result in undermining belief in scriptures.
The growth of unbelief
Millions of people wish to believe, but they can not though they make use of outer frame work religions. Though we live according to our routine religious rituals rites we are all the time victims of an involuntary hypocrisy. We live in an age which is numbed and disillusioned. Our values are blurred, our thought is confused and aims are wavering. In the life of spirit which is the secret of all civilization which intellect may foster and develop but cannot create or even keep alive, we are uprooted. T.S.Elliot in his poem “The Waste Land” describes the decomposition of modern civilization, the lack of conviction and direction, the poverty, confusion and meaninglessness of modern consciousness. This atmosphere of negative thought is responsible for the increase of mental cases in the modern world. C.G.Jung observes:”among all my patients in the second half of my life, there has not been one whose problem …was not that of finding a religious outlook on life…Every one of them fell ill because he had lost that which the living religions of every age have given their followers and none of them has really been healed who did not regain his religious outlook (Modern Man in Search of a Soul,1933-P.264) Lord Acton said, “for 200 years from the time of Hobbs unbelief has been making its way. Unbelief came to be founded on science because about one half of the classic writing, of the creative thinking of the world was done by unbelievers. The influences that reigned were atheistic. No man could be reared except by the aid of Grote, Mill, Austin, Darwin, Lewis, Huxley and Tyndal . T.S.Elliot declared, “the greater part of our reading matter is coming to be written by people who not only have no real belief in a supernatural order”. Under such guidance religious illiteracy has been steadily increasing and civilization is getting detached from its roots. We are face to face with a philosophy of Nihilism.
Nietzsche does not preach conventional atheism. He disturbs the complacency of the pharisees of unbelief and portrays Nihilism as the state of human soul and societies faced with a total eclipse of all values.
End of Part I
Formerly Professor of Philosophy.
New College (AUT)
University of Madras.
A Publication of Bharatiya Itihasa Sankalana Samiti.