The World We Live In
Sri Swami Venkatesananda
This article is from the book “Yoga”.
Man has endeavoured through the ages to live without God or the cosmic Being. Political philosophers, economists and scientific ‘sages’ have assigned to themselves the godly role of protecting man’s peace and happiness, while others function as religious leaders, offering easy salvation to their supporters. Politics, science and economics have failed. Let man now turn towards God. If the religious spirit is absent from our life it has no value, but once it is added then learning, wealth, social position, political or scientific leadership can all assume meaning and purposefulness.
The word ‘dharma’ means “a factor that sustains, upholds, protects and brings together”. It brings us all together, binds us in a wonderful and divine cord of love; that is what religion means. Anyone using this dharma or religion to divide society into antagonistic groups is spreading irreligion and doing the greatest harm to this dharma. Ultimately dharma unites us with god; god who dwells in all beings.
Thus our religion or dharma ought to promote the prosperity of mankind and also ensure the salvation of man. By keeping us together in a bond of love, we are almost compelled to serve one another and thus promote one another’s interests and welfare. By uniting us with god, we are liberated from pettiness, worldliness, selfishness and greed. Here is the greatest miracle on earth: the silent transformation of the human heart, which our dharma brings about. It reminds us that we form the one body of god, inseparably united in him. We may have our own characteristics, faculties, and temperament; we may follow different paths to him, but in his love we are all united, and eventually we shall all reach his feet. All our efforts for the betterment of the lot of mankind fail only because we have not yet realised this.
Religion has suffered the same fate as the present era–that of distortion. The simple is made complex. Yet we see on the horizon the dawn of the age of simplicity, and of an urge to seek for the truth in a maze of distortions. Even the word ‘yoga’ has been distorted. Yoga has nothing to do with miracles and magic, but is the synonym of its phonetic cousin ‘yoke’, which is the essential meaning of the word ‘religion’. Yoke unites two, religion binds them.
Distortion has also crept into religion and divided mankind into opposing camps of ‘your religion’ and ‘my religion’. True religion (yoga) ignores this disharmony and yokes all of us together for humanweal. The source scriptures of all religions say that we should love our neighbour as ourselves and that we should love God with all our being. That is yoga and that is religion. The two must be linked.
Understood aright, therefore, yoga can enrich our life and fulfil its purpose. By yoking us, uniting us and binding us together with a cord of love, it indirectly promotes harmony, peace and prosperity. God is love. The soul yoked to god is possessed and led by this love. We are all bound by the cord of his love which is the omnipresent omnipotence that creates sustains and redeems all.
That is theory, and theory must be translated into practice. Fundamentally, yoga is simple. It demands the curbing of our egoism, annihilation of selfishness and effective control of our mind and senses, so that they function in tune with the infinite. In practice however, we discover that before we attempt to harmonise the self with society and with god, we should strive to integrate our personality so that our thought, word and deed, as also our intellect, emotion and life, do not tear us into several disjointed personalities. Yoga integrates our personality by revealing our own inner nature, its potentialities and limitations.
By an interesting process of social service, worship by god, inward contemplation and health giving physical posture and breathing exercises, yoga achieves the greatest of all miracles–the transformation of the human heart.