Chapter 6: The Secular and the Religious are One
This Law that the universe itself is spiritual practice, sadhana, is essentially an effort at the awakening of a consciousness in respect of the relation that obtains between God and man. In what way are you related to God? The implementation of the necessary consequences that may follow from this awareness of your relation to God is spiritual living.
I have specifically used the words “the implications and the consequences that may follow in practical life from this awakening into the consciousness of the relation between you and God”. First of all, it is necessary to awaken yourself to this consciousness, because most of us are not acquainted with the subtle relation that is between God and ourselves. You may glibly say God is everywhere, but you do not know the consequences of this statement because if He is everywhere, you cannot be anywhere, and you know very well you are certainly there. Therefore, your statement that God is everywhere is a way of talking, without properly going into the results that may follow from these utterances.
But something miraculous is supposed to result, not this peculiar difficulty that I suggested at present due to your inadequate understanding of the consequences thereof. A wonder will be your life. That is the only word with which can describe the result that may follow in your practical life in this world if you are able to clearly visualise before your mind’s eye the meaning behind the establishment of yourself in that consciousness of your relation between man and God. This has perhaps been explained to you majestically and very comprehensively.
This is the root of the whole matter. This is the foundation of spirituality, which goes by various other names also – as religion, yoga, mysticism, samadhi, meditation, and so on. Yesterday I tried to explain certain features of a devout adoration of God the Almighty, which is a principle stage in the advance in the direction of the achievement of the goal of life.
I have also taken time to explain the need to perform duty in this world, to discharge our obligations and pay whatever debts we may owe to any person or to any kind of circumstance or environment. I have also mentioned that there is no such thing as running away from responsibilities. Nobody can ever succeed in doing that, because your obligation is the need on your part to fulfil the law that operates in the universe, and inasmuch as nobody can run out of the universe, nobody can escape the performance of duty that one owes towards the fulfilment of this law that the universe itself is.
In fact, the universe is not a substance or a thing. It is a law. What you call the world, what you call the universe, is a state of being, rather than a thing that you can touch with your hand. It is a condition rather than a substance; therefore, you will realise and appreciate that it is not only necessary to correctly apprehend the nature of the duty that is expected of us in the station in which we are placed in human society, but at the same time we must appreciate the need to be true to that obligation. This purifies the mind, and if the mind is not purified – it is filled with some impurity in the form of a muddle of thinking – any amount of advice or instruction given even a thousand times will not enter into the brain of a person. So it is an exercise for the teacher only, and not for the student. He can go on repeating it; it will be a meditation for him. But whether the students are benefitted or not, the Almighty only knows.
The reason is, impurity of the mind – mala, as they call it, which causes vikshepa or tossing of the mind. Mala, vikshepa, avarana are the three terms usually used to designate the difficulties before us. There is a big list of mala given in the Vedantic texts such as the Vasudeva Manana, a very famous introduction to Indian philosophy. Raga, dvesha, kama, krodha, lobha, moha, mada, matsarya, irsya, asuya, dambha, darpa, ahamkara – thirteen are mentioned there. It is enough for you. These thirteen constitute a linkage of bondage, and this is what is called the dirt of the mind. As a clean mirror covered with thick dust will not be able to reflect light or absorb the luminosity of the blazing sun in the sky, a mind that is ridden over with this dust, this dirt, will not be able to absorb any sound advice. It will not understand and appreciate, much less be able to put it into practice.
The tossing of the mind is called vikshepa. The mind cannot concentrate on anything for a long time. Its difficulty is the necessity it feels to experiment upon various avenues of success in this world. “I may not succeed in this line; I may succeed in that line.” It has not succeeded in its efforts along one direction, and it has now found it possible perhaps to move along another channel; there also, it has not succeeded, so our life ends in a series of experiments without any palpable achievement of victory or attaining anything worthwhile.
The discipline which the ancient students underwent before a competent Guru or master is today considered as an old-fashioned educational system. We think we are so modern and excessively advanced in our cultural progress that the system of personal discipline under a teacher is not necessary. We have only books and libraries, papers and pens, and there the education and the discipline is over. With this background we come to spiritual institutions with an ego, to put it very plainly, with a sense of self-importance and a feeling that one already knows enough and is not bankrupt in understanding. With this complacent, self-fulfilling egoistic adamance of the psychic individuality, students approach a master more to test his knowledge rather than to learn anything from him. This is the fate of mankind today. And where comes God, where is religion, where is spirituality, where is peace of mind? Where is social amity and even the minimum social affection, consideration for another and a capacity to understand?
So the prerequisite which is the purification of the mind by self-discipline, by sharing with others what you have, by service of the master – viddhi praṇipātena paripraśnena sevayā (Gita 4.34) as the Bhagavadgita puts it – these are not only necessary presuppositions of a further advance in religious practice, but unavoidable conditions. And a double promotion here cannot be expected. It is a hard discipline indeed, and whatever the difficulties of discipline ancient masters and students of yoga underwent, we too have to pass through without any kind of expectation of a concession. Natural laws do not give concessions. They are equally distributed with a uniform vehemence of their requirements from our side.
Thus having considered something in regard to the need for the purification of the mind by service, cooperation, discharge of obligation and performance of duty with a proper understanding of the same, we feel the need to raise ourselves and to lift our personal status to the level of a deep contemplation of a higher divinity, which is called upasana, worship of God, adoration of a divinity, a placement of ourselves in the vicinity and atmosphere of a transcendent being, to which reference was made yesterday.
A nearness to God is established in what is called upasana. You are always near God – of course, it is true – but here in upasana you are becoming conscious of this nearness to God, and this consciousness of your proximity to this transcendent principle becomes the motive force behind your forms of adoration and worship, even if it be in the capacity of a ritual that you daily conduct as a routine. The ritual is not a physical performance. It is a gesture of the psyche from inside. It is an expression of your feeling and consciousness, and it is a manifestation of what you really are, or at least what you feel you are, in that context of your longing to be in the presence of that supreme superintending principle, the divinity, the god whom you worship.
As I mentioned yesterday, the Bhakti Yoga Shastra is the area which covers this vast area of discipline of devout adoration of God by various means of diverting our attention to a being which is neither a subjective percipient nor an object of perception, but something transcendent to both the visible object and the visualising subject. Thus, in this diverting of your attention to the transcendent principle of upasana, which is worship, which is puja, which is your daily religious performance, you are actually attempting a superhuman feat. You may call it a circus feat of climbing on your own shoulders, if you would like to call it so.
When you are seated in a holy shrine or in your puja room for the purpose of adoration of the Almighty in your own way, you are performing a tremendous feat in the internal operation of your consciousness. What is that feat? It is an uncanny exercise by which you feel attuned to that which is neither you, nor that which you see with your eyes. You don’t remain there as so-and-so when you see an idol before you or contemplate an object so-called in your religious adoration. The worship in this process of sadhana is not an adoration of something that is outside you in the form of an idol or so on. Again I revert to the example of the governmental system I mentioned to you. Do you not salute the flag of the government on Independence Day? Is it not outside you? It is outside you, but when you salute, adore, pay respect to that flag which is outside you, you are not respecting that which is outside you. Your respect is to that which is universally operative as the national spirit, which cannot be called an object of your senses. The respect that you evince to the spirit of the nation in your obeisance to the flag is not an obeisance to some object outside, though it appears as something visible. You can see a piece of cloth hanging there, and you salute it and chant a holy hymn. Here is an example. Notwithstanding the fact that you apparently seem to be adoring an external something in the form of a flag, an image, a worship, painted picture or a photograph, an idol, yantra, mantra, tantra, whatever it is, you are actually contemplating in your mind that which is not limited to that object but which is the fire, the force, the energy, the universality that is behind this particularity.
Again I repeat the analogy of the national spirit. It includes not merely the flag; it includes you also. The spirit of the nation whom you are adoring, whom you are respecting through this adoration and saluting of the flag, is not only in the flag; it is in you also. So what are you actually adoring? It is something which you are not able to think in your mind. The saluting of the flag is a mechanical ritual which you perform without actually knowing what exactly it implies. It is a tremendous significance which you are evoking from within your heart when you adore this flag, or salute it. What does it mean? You are not looking at something outside you. You are inwardly contemplating something which is represented by this flag, and which is represented by you also, who are saluting it. The subject that you are, the object that the flag is, both are comprehended in that which you are adoring and saluting.
So is the upasana. Whom are you worshipping? You can imagine how this is a feat of exercise. I told you this is a feat. It is a feat because it requires a little effort of thinking. Otherwise, you can say, “Namaskar, Om Namo Narayanaya,” and mean nothing in your mind. This will not produce anything worth any significance or meaning if religion means mechanical adoration of something whose significance is not clear to the mind. Even if your understanding of spirituality is only this much, you are what you are, and you cannot expect to be more than what you are. The upasana is not a mechanical adoration of any object.
So, bring to your memories once again the significance of these few words that I placed before you: It is a wonder. Āścaryo vaktā kuśalo'sya labdhā (Katha 1.2.7), āścaryavat paśyati, āścaryavac cai ’nam anyaḥ śṛṇoti (Gita 2.29) says the Upanishad, says the Bhagavadgita. To hear these things is a wonder, to listen to these expositions is a miracle, and to be able to understand what is said is a great miracle. If you are able to understand and appreciate the spirit of what is told to you, it is a wonder indeed, because what is told to you is itself a wonder. It is not some little thing which you can see in the world, though the whole world is contained within it. Such is the grandeur of spiritual practice, upasana, religious adoration. What is the intention? What is the purpose? Why do all these things?
These questions must have been already answered by what has already been said. Why all these efforts? Why should we engage ourselves in all these difficulties? The reason is, to say once again, you are in search of your own larger eternal being. You are in search of infinity and eternity in the quest of even the little joys and satisfactions of life. These purposes that you wish to fulfil by means of your activities in this world are actually symptomatic of your search for eternity and infinity. This is the reason why you would not like that your life should be cut off even after five hundred years or a thousand years. Whatever be the little joy, whatever be the little comfort, whatever be the success even in its minutiae that you may have achieved in life, you would like to live in this world for as long a time as possible. Even a wretched existence would be worthwhile if it is to be continued for a long time. Even an ant does not wish to die. It wriggles out of the clutches of anyone who wishes to catch it.
The desire to live endlessly is the desire for the eternity of existence, which your basic self is. And the desire to possess infinite things in the world, infinitely great, endlessly possessive and to have suzerainty over an infinite area or locality of jurisdiction is a desire for infinity. Your longings are for the infinite and the eternal; therefore, these longings of yours cannot be for any object of the world. Though it may appear that you want money, you want social status, you want friends and relatives, you want a nice family and all physical comforts in life, accepting all these things, you will need to realise an underlying significance and hidden meaning behind these longings.
The hidden meaning of these longings for the tinsels of the Earth is that you ask for that which is timeless and spaceless. You are asking for that which is eternity and infinity blended together, blended together in such a way that you cannot know what it actually means. Where space and time come together and become one being, you do not know what that one being can be. How could you imagine anything which is neither space nor time, but which is more and which is above both? Such is the thing that you are asking for; that is the thing that you long for; that is the thing that you need, and you don’t want anything else. Your asking for a family life and asking for children, welfare, security, joy – all these are symptoms, outward forms, shapes taken by your inward asking for that which is not of this world, that which is not transient.
You may ask, “So why should I undertake any kind of exercise along the line that you are prescribing? Why do anything in the name of religion and spirituality?” Because it is the arduous effort of every living being to realise That which is utterly perfect. If you call it religion, please yourself by calling it so. If you do not want to call it by that name and want to call it by another name, call it by another name. That which goes usually by the name of yoga, religion or spirituality is the system of that perfected form of integrated living which can be accommodated into the law of eternity and infinity, which can be accommodated with the system that prevails in the universe and which can make you a citizen of the creation of God.
This is the reason why no one can be wholly irreligious or unspiritual. Even the so-called irreligious, unspiritual movements that appear to be prowling like wild beasts in this world today in man’s history are blind gropings of the very same search for eternity and infinity, wrongly manoeuvred and erroneously conducted. A right thing is wrongly attempted by the errors of mankind. Thus, the blunders that man commits, the errors of human history are the mistaken movements of a blind consciousness which is searching for the very same thing which everyone has to seek, and there cannot be any other aim in life.
So there is no such thing as irreligion or unspirituality. It is a science of existence that you call spirituality or religion, and it is not, therefore, a kind of occupation to which you can give a little of your time. Inasmuch as it is not a job or an occupation and a vocation of your life, it is not enough if you give a little time to it, because the whole of your time is intended only for that.
Then you will ask, “What about the other duties in life? If I give the entire time for religion, for spirituality, for worship, for study, for meditation, what happens to my other secular duties?” You bring an argument of your own. Again, I request you to remember what was told to you earlier. There are no such things as secular duties. Such a thing does not exist. The so-called secularity of obligation, performance and discharge of duty in the world of human society is the outer expression of this inner determination which is called the regulative principle of the science of existence called spirituality or religion. The more you are truly religious, and the more you are spiritual, the more competent you will become even in your so-called secular duties.
The distinction that is usually drawn between secularity and religion is the fallacious distinction that people draw between the world and God. When you say the secular thing is here and the religious is there, you inadvertently mean that the world is here and God is sitting there. Therefore, let God mind His business for some time until I fulfil my duties in this world. If this is your idea of the relationship between world and God, then all that will be a waste.
There is no gap, even to the width of a single millimetre, between God and the world. There is no distance between God and the world; therefore, there cannot be distance between the religious and the secular. Therefore, they are not two things. It is a double or dual significance you attribute, a dual nomenclature that you are trying to associate with that which is basically integral, like a rupee coin which has two sides. You cannot have only one side without the other side. One side is religion, the other side is secularism. If you say you want only secularism, it means you want half the rupee only, and split it. It is not possible because they are the obverse and reverse of the same coin. They are two features, inseparable features, facets of the single crystal of a total life. That life is called spirituality, that is religion, and therefore is the need for you to be religious, to be spiritual; therefore, it does not mean that it is different from being engaged in the work of the world. The work of the world, the duties you are to perform in life, are not outside the purview of religion and spirituality; they are part and parcel of your great adventure in the direction of the experience of the ultimate goal.
Thus is this little introduction before you. Suffice this to be a little preface to a great task that is ahead of you. You yourself will realise in your own practical life that you would be a better person in every way if this knowledge has taken possession of you, if this knowledge has become your being. “If knowledge has become your being” – remember this very well. If this understanding has become an emanation of what you are, if it is not merely an accumulation of information that you have gathered from somebody else, if consciousness is being and being is consciousness, if your awareness of this fact is the same as your existence and vice versa, if your existence or being is the same as this consciousness, you are living spirituality, you are living religion and not merely hearing about it or reading about it in a scripture. Religion is living; spiritualty is life. It is yourself. What you are is the spirituality that you live, and what you are in your own self is the religion that you practice.
Thus, you will be a light before everybody else. A true spiritual seeker, a sadhaka, is a light, a flame before others, a torch which can shed some lustre on the path which is trodden by other people also. You will not only be a source of immense relief and satisfaction, you will also be a medicine to the illness of tensions of every kind to other people also. You will be happy, no doubt, but your very personality will be a radiation and an exudation of this joy to others also. Your personality will speak; your mouth need not open. A spiritual seeker is an example of the presence of this proximity of being to God.
This is, therefore, enough for you if you can masticate and digest these ideas and absorb them into your being so that this knowledge is your being. Sattaiva bodho, bodha eva cha satta: Existence is consciousness, consciousness is existence, chit is sat, sat is chit, knowledge is you, you are knowledge.
Knowledge is not in the books. It is not a technology that is capable of implementation only through an instrument which is outside you. You yourself are the instrument, and therefore, yoga is self-discovery. It is not a discovery of something outside you. And this art of self-discovery is also the discovery of the whole universe. Know thyself and you know that also. The knowledge of that is also the knowledge of this. The knowledge of this is the knowledge of that. One who knows one’s own deepest being knows the whole universe, and one who knows the universe knows the Self. Thus the universal Almighty is also the Self of all beings, and that which is the Self of all beings is also the infinite existence.
How can you say that this is not for you? And if it is not for you, for whom is it intended? This is unavoidable. This is the science of life, the art of existence, the logic of your practical getting on in this world, the very meaning of any existence that you can conceive of in your mind. Such is the glorious idealism which is the most practical realism of life that Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj and stalwarts of his nature have been untiringly proclaiming to the world of humanity through history.
Here you are seated in this holy atmosphere of the sacred shrine of Sri Gurudev, and I am certain you return from this place charged with a power that is not of this world, with a grace that you may not even be aware of as having descended into you. You become better, and you are one step ahead in the direction of being a super-personality, implying thereby that you have taken at least a single step in that directionless direction which is the soul’s movement to that which is everywhere. You can know very well what sort of movement it can be if it is a movement towards that which is everywhere. Here is some homework for you to think deeply: How will you move to that which is everywhere?