The Call of the Real
SRI SWAMI SIVANANDA
The seed of the perpetration of evil is sown by the lack of ability to apprehend the nature of wisdom, truth and justice. It is not the human aspiration but the subhuman propensity that ravages the very values of life through contempt for alien temperaments and hatred towards other inhabitants of the earth. It is a great mistake that the boys and the girls of today are spending their career in “education for job, bread and comfort”, neglecting the central realities of true civilisation and culture. It is imperative that all schools and colleges should, if they intend to work for the happiness and freedom of mankind, include, as the most important item in the curriculum, the art of perfect living, an appreciation of the essential values of life–virtue, love, truth, purity, universality, wisdom and justice,–which constitute the very heart of religion–religion which soars high up to the possibility of cosmic salvation. There is no life in the educative process, if it is destitute of the religious consciousness, for religion is the very meaning of life’s purpose, the one aim of the struggle for existence. If religion is rejected, there is nothing left in the mortal except a heap of bones and a mass of flesh.
Why modern civilisation has despised religion is only because it understands by religion an outburst of the irrational spirit. The truth is far from this! Religion is the light that enlivens the most rational life, the manifestation of the eternal glow of intelligence that peeps through even the mightiest genius of the world. There can be no civilisation without religion, and there is no worth in religion if it is destitute of spirituality. That religion which aims at nothing more than a happy life in the world is only materialistic utilitarianism and not a solacing religion. Materialism is the crude product of a want of proper illumination and insight into the true essence and, hence, it is not worthy of consideration. An impure heart and conceited brain cannot understand religion. True religion begins when and where the intellect ends. Religion is neither emotion nor scholarship, but knowledge that is direct and immediate, a faith born not of practical necessity but of impersonal experience. The revelations of the Vedas and the Upanishads, the gospel of Buddha, the teachings of Christ, all have sprung from an impersonal source, though this impersonality is made known to us only as expressed through personalities. No intelligent man of the world can say that he has reached the zenith of intelligence; knowledge grows and widens when experience deepens itself. Many rank materialists have turned into great spiritual heroes, which shows that the shallow world cannot satisfy the deep spirit in man. This One Spirit is common to all and, therefore, religion must be One, not two or many. Though shirts and coats may be many, the person who puts them on is the same.
The divine play of manifestation, through its scenes of appearing and disappearing in the variegated colours of life and death, drives home to mankind the lesson that this life is only an act in the stage of becoming, where many parts are played and no part in itself is complete enough to give the character of wholeness to the play. Every actor on the stage behaves in such a way that he does not portray himself as an unrelated independent personality, but endeavours to be an integral part of the entire play. This behaviour of the actor fitted to the wholeness of the play is his dramatic peculiarity or the Dharma which unites all actors to the whole, which is the ultimate purpose. The Dharma of man is his religion which binds him to the Whole, which shows that he is a part of the Whole, trying to abide by the Law of the Whole and aiming at fulfilling the purpose of the Whole. For, the Whole is the truth and the good of all is included in it as its constituents which can never exist independently of the Whole.
Man can never live without God, for God is the Whole and man is only a part. Man’s religion is his Dharma and this Dharma can be in its real sense only one, for its goal is one. There is one God, the indubitable Self of all beings; there is one Law, the relentless law of cause and effect; there is one religion, the indispensable religion of Self-realisation. Everyone is only the One Self; how, then, can there be many laws and many religions? As life has been made for the time being comfortable and comparatively effortless by modern inventions, the ease-loving man is prone to disregard the place of religion in his life and exalt the values of materialistic view of things. Events are slowly disclosing the unreliability of the purely objective views and methods of physical science, since it is the experience of man that he is not really happier, and the world is not in fact better, even after his daring attempts at extracting out of external nature the secrets of its resources in order to utilise the same for his own purposes. Where is satisfaction, where is happiness, and where is peace, then? Is anyone who has deeply and correctly thought over his conditions and the world’s vicissitudes capable of asserting that the struggle for advancement through the physical methods has ended in the solace of man? The purely physical outlook is not compatible with the inner truth of the real man, for, religious discipline, and not bodily pleasure, is the role to be followed in the course of right living. Let it not be thought that religion is a dogmatic, other-worldly, pet tradition of blind believers or irrational emotionalists. Religion is the most rational science of man as he essentially is, not merely as he presumes himself to be. Religion is the way to the realisation of the highest perfection. If perfection is a possibility, religion is real, and it is the only method befitting the human ideal.
Real religion is not divorced from philosophical wisdom or alien to the spiritual science of the Self. If the self is an established fact, and the knowledge of it is true, the way to it also is true and established. This established way is religion. Many religions appear on the surface when they are not strictly based on the general reality of all. When religions are founded on non-essentials, i.e., classes, climes, sentiments, idiosyncrasies and the practical needs of a particular society or a limited part of humanity, they are bound to be cut off from each other. But, when it is known that man is not merely a body, that one’s ultimate demands are not peculiar to one’s personality alone, that the essential calls of the inner reality are similar to those in others too, it will be found that the views of life cannot finally diverge and that, if all aim at a common experience of reality and perfection, their conduct in life can only be a preparation for that Supreme Experience-Whole. This preparation is the religious life, though it may have many appellations and may pass through the many moulds of temperamental peculiarities.
Religion is the true life; it is living in consonance with Truth. Dharma or virtue is the character of Satya or Truth and Truth is the nature of Self-certainty. Virtue is inseparable from religious conduct, for virtue is a constituent of real religion. Religion is the form taken by the relation that is between man and God, the link between the lower and the higher natures in oneself. Your own Higher Nature is God; your essence is the Real; your existence is universal and immortal. Do not quarrel over the why, the how and the what of religion; these questions can be easily answered by your own self, if you realise the oneness of all religions on the basis of the one God. Oneness can account for and explain duality and multiplicity, but the latter cannot survive without the One that is behind all of them. Everyone in the beginning has a religion of his own, though it is limited to his private notions and aspirations, for everyone tries to grasp and reach something beyond himself; being dissatisfied with his present lot, he reaches out to a beyond or a higher being. But, this higher being is, at its highest reach, the same to all people. All have an innate wish springing from the core of their being, and this wish does not contradict another, because this is the wish to be supremely perfect. Therefore, religion is one, though it appears to have many forms, when it is confined to persons or social circles. Man is a citizen of the universe, and his religion cannot but be universal.
Moreover, religion is the way spiritual, the way to God; it is not the path of worldly pursuits, though life in the world is regulated by the great laws of religion. Religious life is spiritual life; a religious man is a spiritual man, for it is not possible to be religious without reverencing the Spirit that is one. O Seekers of Truth! Are you not tired of intellectual rambling, mental and physical slavery and restlessness? Cease from vain pursuits; become pure, and do the right. You shall have peace. Unite, love and worship in the light of the Atman or Brahman, God or the Father in Heaven, Allah or Ahura Mazda, Tao or Jehovah. Let your heart melt in the love of all. Let the intellect discern the cosmic verities and transcend itself in the wisdom of the Self. Make it your religion to serve all, to love all and to be kind to all. Be tolerant; tolerate even the lowly and the forsaken, the undeveloped and the poverty-stricken. Let magnanimity and not narrowness, patience and not irritability, charitableness and not greed, be your religion. Let religion be understood as the universal Dharma of all, for the religion of the universe is the religion of the Real. The real is not an exclusive property of the Hindu or the Buddhist, the Christian or the Muslim; but it is the Support and Life of everyone without distinctions of class, creed or colour. Let this exalted outlook herald the advent of a new and better era in the life of the world! May the religion of self-sacrifice, self-restraint, self-surrender and Self-knowledge triumph all over!
May righteousness reign over the earth! May the grace of the Almighty be upon you all!