Our Spiritual Heritage
At no time in history was Cultural Revolution as widespread as it is now. From the time since the pre-historic man looked out from his cave with a club in hand to the present day busy executive glaring into the computer screen, he has indeed come a long way. The world and its wonders are literally at his fingertips. A click at the mouse and lo! He has shrunk the globe! The other part of the world is now closer to him than the bedroom window. Invariably, He is becoming a world citizen. But with all this, has he achieved his goals? What exactly is Man seeking? What makes him seek? Who is Man? What is his relationship with the world?
As we stand on the brink of the 21st century, it is imperative we find answers to these questions which have been the object of speculation to Eastern wisdom as well as western sciences. Though the quest is not something new, the outlook has been very different. The objective world, which is seen, and cognized by the senses has been the realm of enquiry for science. The various branches of science have been successful in observing and classifying available data and this has led to specialized areas of study and research, many of them even overlapping each other. The more complex the object of enquiry, the more areas overlap trying to answer the question. Thus almost every branch of science strives to solve the complex riddle called Man.
MAN AND HIS WORLD
Man is classified primarily as a living being. Study of evolution of life has placed Man as an outcome of a million years of constant evolution. Since evolution is a constant, gradual and slow change, Man is evolving and shall continue to do so. Man as an evolving being is studied under psychology, sociology and other related areas. So evolution is the common substratum on which science strives to reveal Man. Unfortunately, in doing so, we are conditioned to accept that Man is an animal! No doubt with an evolved and well-developed brain, but a physical, biological and social creature! The results of which are not too far to see!
We give ample expression to our animal tendencies. A little scratch on the surface of Man, and the animal within is ready to jump out. Driven by animalistic impulses, we live with great caution and fear. Fear of being consumed by someone stronger - financially and professionally; fear of losing our workplace to someone more efficient and enterprising; fear of losing our mate to someone more attractive and affluent. We want to grab and hoard the maximum before someone else does it. We want to accumulate the very riches we envy in others. We seek unconditional love, yet barter our relationships. We cheat those who are weak and are in turn cheated by those stronger than us. We care not for the other, be it plant, animal or Human. Our living is confined to I, me and myself. Physical strength and beauty has become our hobby. Stomach and sex are our driving forces. To be ‘one-up’ is our goal, even if it means to crush others. We contaminate water, pollute the air, destroy natural resources, plunder mineral wealth, have no concern for vegetation, ill-treat the animal kingdom and yet, boast of our intelligence! Our interactions with others are only a farce. Our kindness is only selfishness in disguise. Our charity is only a means to discard what we don’t want. Even the love we confess for the other is only a pretense. In our struggle for existence, we know only the fittest can survive. So ‘Might is Right’ is our guiding philosophy and the Society we live in has become a field to express our permissiveness.
SCIENCE AND PROGRESS
Science with its technological applications and mechanical power has yielded material welfare no doubt, but this has only led to an insecure social order. Plundering of natural resources and destruction of wildlife has today led to an imbalanced ecology. Moral crisis confronts Man in his unethical means of accumulating power and possessions. The mad rush to acquire what others have and we don’t need has resulted in many psychological complexes and unhealthy competition and this we call progress! We say Man is highly evolved, We take pride in our scientific heritage. And we claim to have progressed. But have we?
If by progress we mean better food to eat, better clothes to wear and better houses to live in, we have no doubt progressed. But betterment of these essentials without peace and harmony within oneself and others can never be True Progress. Man has sought progress at the cost of numerous other beings. This is where science has failed us. Science has failed in making Man humane.
We need to eat, clothe and dwell, but not necessarily by killing other living beings. Are we prepared to see our names on the menu card of a restaurant? Will we kill our young ones for sport? Or chop off their tender fingers to prepare a salad? If life is precious to us, so is it to any living being. This senseless cruelty to nature and other beings in it are the outcome of Man’s preoccupation with himself and lack of a broader perspective in living. Unless his Consciousness can expand to accommodate the entire creation, progress can only be a myth. What we need is a global vision, one that can embrace the whole of existence! This alone can save mankind from being destroyed. The sooner we realize this, the better.
RELIGION Vs SPIRITUALITY
It is towards this vision of Oneness that spirituality beckons us. True Spirituality knows no distinction between Man and the rest of the creation. Man is a part of the whole and the whole is nothing but an extension of Man. This has been unanimously declared by various religious texts and has been confirmed by the experience of awakened mystics irrespective of the paths they tread. But unfortunately, we prefer to remain blind. We close ourselves to the spiritual vision and pretend to be deaf to the words of the Masters. We are contented to remain superficially religious, many a time even superstitiously!
Blind adherence to a religion without attempting to understand its doctrines and live a spiritual life has resulted in widespread fanaticism. In the hands of such fanatics, religion, which has ever sought peace and harmony, has itself become the cause of violent conflicts. It would not be false to say that half the conflicts in the world are caused by our religious pride and intolerance to the faith of the other. We fail to understand that religions can be many and every religion is valid and true as long as it fulfills Man’s quest towards higher living.
Every religion heralds a beginning of awakened Consciousness, which changes the course of humanity. Different religions have come into being to suit various phases of Man’s growth and inclination. Religion is a means to divine living. It is a system of practice and belief. A system where we commit our devotion to a particular ideal, a system where we adore and have faith in something Divine - be it an idol, book or a Person, a system where we seek the interference of the Divine in our daily life (mostly to provide us with the results we want!). Today, there are many who practice religion but there are very few who are genuinely spiritual. The religious leaders of today have a great responsibility in carrying their message free of bigotry, bias and distortion. They must look ahead of their group and sect, in unfolding spiritual truths and communicating the eternal wisdom.
THE ETERNAL WISDOM
All Religions proclaim that Truth is one. Religious practices are attempts to go back to that Truth. Truth is transcendental and universal. Religion is temporal and local. Truth is the systematic order in existence. Religion is a ritualistic practice to provide a glimpse of that order. The goal of religion is attained when one sees the Truth. It is then that one is truly spiritual. Surprisingly, one may practice religion and yet not be spiritual if there is no quest to know the Truth. On the other hand, one can be outside the bounds of formal religion and yet be spiritual, if he has found the Truth! While there are many ways to practice religions, there is only one way to be spiritual - To Be!
While religious practices may be different, when it comes to expression of spiritual truths, they sound very similar. The Holy texts and awakened mystics repeatedly proclaim that
LIVING IN TRUTH
Let us resolve to live spiritually; let us study the Holy texts. If not in the original languages in which they were written, at least in any of the translations available. Let every Hindu study the Bhagavad Gita, every Christian the Bible, every Muslim the Koran. Let us open our lives to our Spiritual Heritage. Let us not be mere believers. Do not believe in anything spiritual unless you see the truth of it yourself. The message of Gautama Buddha to his disciples is apt to those who seek. The Great Master said - “Believe nothing merely because you’ve been told it or because it is tradition or because you yourself have imagined it. Do not believe which your teacher tells you merely out of respect for the teacher. But whatever, after due examination and analysis you find to be conducive to the good, the benefit, the welfare of all beings, that doctrine believe and cling to and take it as your guide”.
Study sincerely; reflect upon what you study. Look into yourself. How do you relate the scriptures to your daily living? Introspect deeply. Live the truths you have been convinced of. Forget the rest. They are not for you. If you can take even one single message and make that your life, you have done it. You have lived the truth. It is your own. Strive, strive to make the Truth your own. Be bold, give no lame excuses.
MANIFEST THE DIVINE
Study of the scriptures is not to add to your useless data bank. It is to change your life in the light of the teachings. But this will not happen by mere study. Our daily living must be ethical. We should not be immoral in our transactions. “By study, a man cannot know the truth, if he desists not from evil, if he controls not his senses, if he quietens not his mind and practices not meditation”, says the Upanishad.
Value based living is very necessary. Unconsciously, we have today cognized their need. The subject of values is the discussion of many a topic now a days. While scriptures can point to us our True being, living a value based life transforms the lower and baser in us. As our consciousness gets enriched, we shall cease to entertain pride, anger, envy, lust, gluttony, avarice and sloth. We shall then find peace and harmony. Service shall be our nature and love, our attitude. Let us not wait for the world to change. It is we who have to change. It is the individual who can change. You can. You are not an animal. You are divine - Tat Tvam Asi !
INDIA'S SPIRITUAL LEGACY
Blessed you are to be Human. Twice blessed you are to be born in this great country, India, the repository of all wisdom. While the entire western world was looking ‘out’; India was looking ‘within’. The Divinity of Man was proclaimed in India even before the west could evolve a language. Many a great sage lived here whose thoughts synchronize with current day scientific achievements. Many a Faith traversed this land, unhindered and free. Religious persecution was unheard of in this blessed land. We welcomed the Persians who have now become a part of us, blending beautifully like sugar in milk, as they had said. When Tibetans were thrown out of their country, it is India who opened her arms in embrace. It is in India where unity stands established amidst great diversity. It is India, which has kept the flame of spiritual light alive. We may be materially poor, but we have a richness that makes the entire world stand and look up to us.
India has a spiritual legacy. Its destination is spiritual. The only reason why this country is alive, despite its poverty, despite its untapped natural resources, despite it being wrecked by repeated foreign invasions, despite it being clouded by dogmas and superstitions, is because of these spiritual forces. No wonder seekers of wisdom have always turned to India, and India in her infinite compassion has blessed them all with True Vision. Even those who ridiculed India like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Max Mueller gradually turned to worship her. Many a confirmed atheist has turned a saint here. India’s gift to the world is the Eternal Truth. Arnold Tonybee has rightly remarked - “the spiritual gift that makes men humane is still alive in Indian souls. Go on giving to the world Indian examples of it. Nothing else can do so much to help mankind to save it from self-destruction”.
Let us now wake up and set an example. Be Brave. Be Bold. Nothing can stop us. We have nothing to fear, nothing to lose. The Upanishads call us as ‘children of the Immortal’. Let us claim our birthright. Let us abide in that Truth. Let us be worthy children of that Worthy Mother.
© Carry the Torch,08-97
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