Chapter 28: Religious Consciousness
Jose: Swamiji, is religion necessary for religious consciousness?
SWAMIJI: Anyone who feels that there is something above oneself is a religious person. Religion is the consciousness of there being something above and beyond oneself. That is all. If you feel that you are complete, and there is nothing beyond or above you, there is no need for religion. This is a simple psychological definition. The consciousness that there is something above, beyond you, more than you, larger than you, transcending you, which you would like to reach, is religion. You may call it religious consciousness, if you like.
Now, you are asking if it is necessary to have religion. The way in which you conduct yourself in your daily life, in the light of this consciousness, in this world, is religion. Firstly, there is a consciousness. Secondly, it has an impact upon your daily life and you conduct yourself in a particular manner accordingly. Your behavior, conduct and action are all determined by this consciousness; so one is the cause and another is the effect. You may say that religious consciousness is the cause; religion is the effect. They go together. One cannot be without the other.
Jose: But is religion necessary for religious experience?
SWAMIJI: Experience is nothing but direct entry into this consciousness of religion. At present, your religious consciousness is only conceptual. It has not actually become you. When it becomes you, it is experience. So, it is one step further, beyond even mere consciousness. One is an external manifestation, then there is a conceptual metaphysical foundation, then lastly, actual experience. You may say that there are three stages.
Being religious means having a consciousness of the finitude of oneself and a longing to overstep its limits. And who does not feel finitude? Thus, everybody has a consciousness of what is beyond finitude, which one would like to overcome. Here is religion.