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A True Philosophy of Life

By

Sri Swami Sivananda

If the blazing blue sky were to pour down torrents of light on an assembly of blind men, they would feel the heat but see no light. Similarly, if a holy man floods us with life-giving wisdom through the channels of a discourse or speech or writing, we may be stirred to involuntary thrills at the graceful succession of rhythmic sentences or, moved by vanity, pretend to understand and receive the flow of wisdom nodding our heads as if in complete understanding. If a few of us penetrate into the substance of the speech or the writing and grasp the truth of it, we seldom practise; and even if a few among us translate the wisdom into action or apply it to our daily lives, we are insincere, or rather forced to be insincere by the subtle desires, secret schemes and screened hopes lodged in the innermost recess of our hearts.

I do not mean we are too gross and dull to pursue the path of wisdom or to achieve light and truth. Nothing is wrong with us, though ignorance and darkness have penetrated into the very texture of our soul and life. We may be fools, but we are gods playing at them; we may be wretched, but it may merely be a disguise of divinity; we may be walking shrines of darkness, yet we have a lamp of deathless beauty ever shining within us; we may be denizens of a hell in this world, but we have faint recollections of our citizenship in the heaven within us. Though reeling headlong in sensuality, we have a sense for the Godlike.

The tragedy of all tragedies does not lie in what we are, but in not knowing what we are and what we are essentially. Our deepest folly and ruinous error is in not investigating ourselves. Essentially we are Truth; and truth is neither an inference of logic, nor a metaphysical idea, nor a moral principle, nor an inscrutable mystery, nor yet a problem of solution. It is the deepest consciousness in us, a reality to be experienced, a becoming, a being. As one Principle of Life we animate the entire existence, pulsate in every vein of every creature; as the source of Light we make the sun and the moon what they are; as unfathomable and all-pervading Spirit we envelop the infinite skies. We are everywhere and always; we exist as a Universal Here, an Everlasting Now.

Then what blinds us to the fact about ourselves, what binds our Immortal Spirit to this frail body, what barricades our road to the limitless light and supreme truth? Nothing but the invisible, the apparently slender, threads. In certain strange moods, in moments of meditation, in the hours of self-analysis and self-introspection, we observe the play of two worlds—the spiritual and the temporal—on the stage of our heart, and perceive the veils that overshadow our universal spirit and the slender chords that bind our Infinite Self.

Buried in the quicksands of ignorance, buffeted by the winds of passion, ruled by impious impulses and reigned by ruinous desires, lost in the sensuous enjoyment of the outward show of life, we shamelessly hold on to a distorted and perverted view of life. Hence this tragedy occurs,—this loss of judgment, this incapacity to possess ourselves, study ourselves, pursue finer virtues, universal principles and fundamental problems.

Our commercial world of technicalities, our age of machines, has made us all automatons and robbed us of our thought, without which man lapses into the animal kingdom. Our pressing cares and anxieties absorb us, our little ambitions and hopes blind our eyes to the magnitude and splendour of our Self. We live in wonders that dwarf us and terrors that make us cowards to face the facts of life, the truth of wisdom. A spurious civilisation has swallowed the core of our culture; outward manners and university education blur our vision to the brute in men we come in contact with, and, backed by these very same polished cheats and painted brutes, we become bold and foolishly mock at religion, the final centre of repose, the substance of our life (without which we are shadows and trash), decry men of wisdom and stone the saviours. What is worse, whether we are conscious of it or not, we are doing it every moment of our lives.

The first condition of wisdom is that we must admit our weakness, our limitations, our folly, look into their very eyes, rise superior to them, triumph over them and adopt a sane philosophy of life which will make us masters of our nature, perfectly human, living on the border lines of our essential nature and wielding fullness of power, beauty and bliss.

We should purge our soul of all nonsense, blow out the dross in our thought, slay the ravening wolves of the brute instincts in us, disperse the fog of prejudice and ill-feeling from our hearts, seek peace and serenity in the spiritual life, possess new eyes and new hearts, and live a life of consummate purity and perfection.

I hold that real religion is the religion of the heart. The heart must be purified first. Truth, love and purity are the basis of real religion. Control over the baser nature, conquest of the mind, cultivation of virtues, service of humanity, goodwill, fellowship and amity constitute the fundamentals of true religion. And I try to teach them mostly by example which I consider to be weightier than all precepts.

I consider that goodness, in being and doing, constitutes the rock-bottom of one’s life. By goodness I mean the capacity to feel with others and live and feel as others do, and be in a position to so act that no one is hurt by it. Goodness is the face of Godliness. I think that to be good in reality, in the innermost recesses of one’s heart, is not easy, though it may appear to be simple as a teaching. It is one of the hardest of things on earth, if only one would be honest to oneself.

The philosophy I hold is neither a dreamy, subjective, world-negating doctrine of illusion, nor a crude world-affirming theory of sense-ridden humanism. It is the fact of the divinity of the universe, the immortality of the soul of man, the unity of creation with the Absolute, that I feel as the only doctrine worth considering. As the one Brahman appears as the diverse universe in all the planes of its manifestation, the aspirant has to pay his homage to the lower manifestations before he steps into the higher. Sound health, clear understanding, deep knowledge, a powerful will and moral integrity are all necessary parts of the process of the realisation of the Ideal of humanity as a whole. To adjust, adapt and accommodate, to see good in everything and bring to effective use all the principles of Nature in the process of evolution towards Self-realisation along the path of an integrated adjustment of the human powers and faculties are some of the main factors that go to build up a true philosophy of life. For me philosophy is not merely a love of wisdom but actual possession of it. In all my writings I have prescribed methods for overcoming and mastering the physical, vital, mental and the intellectual layers of consciousness in order to be able to proceed with the Sadhana for self-perfection. The self-perfected ones are the Sarvabhutahite ratah (ones who perform unselfish work for the welfare of all).

To behold the Atman in every being or form, to feel Brahman everywhere, at all times and in all conditions of life, to see, hear, taste and feel everything as the Atman is my creed. To live in Brahman, to melt in Brahman and to dissolve in Brahman is my creed. By dwelling in such union, to utilise the hands, mind, senses and the body for the service of humanity, for singing the Names of the Lord, for elevating the devotees, for giving instructions to sincere aspirants and disseminating knowledge throughout the world is the aim of my life. It is my sacred creed to serve sick persons, to nurse them with care, sympathy and love, to cheer the depressed, to infuse power and joy in all, to feel oneness with each and everyone, and to treat all with equal vision. In my highest creed there are neither peasants nor kings, neither beggars nor emperors, neither males nor females, neither teachers nor students.

The first step is often the most difficult one. But once it is taken the rest becomes easy. There is a need for more of courage and patience on the part of people. They usually shirk, hesitate and are frightened. All this is due to ignorance of one’s true duty. A certain amount of education and culture is necessary to have a sufficiently clear grasp of one’s position in the world. Our educational system needs an overhauling, for it is now floating on the surface without touching the depths of man. To achieve this, co-operation should come not only from society but also from the Government. Success is difficult without mutual help. The head and heart should go hand in hand, and the ideal and the real should have a close relation. To work with this knowledge is Karma Yoga. The Lord has declared this truth in the Bhagavad Gita. I pray that this supreme ideal be actualised in the daily life of every individual, and there be a veritable heaven on earth. This is not merely a wish,—this is a possibility and a fact that cannot be gainsaid. This is to be realised, if life is to mean what it ought really to mean.

May you all manifest your divine nature in your daily life through spiritual Sadhana. May your spiritual Centre shine for ever as a fixed star and illumine the path of many an aspirant and guide them to their Grand Goal!


Last Updated: Sunday, 17-Oct-2004 08:51:58 EDT
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