Religion and Social Values
by Swami Krishnananda

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Chapter 2: The Need for a Larger Outlook

It is necessary for us to recollect the passage we have traversed in the study of our own life. Very often, if not always, we expect that the world in which we live should be made in the way in which we see it, and in the manner we understand it. This is an attitude of self-confidence which brooks no interference from any other point of view of understanding. Man expects to live in man’s world only, as we see obviously demonstrated in our own personal lives. As we are men, we expect only men to be alive—as if no one else can coexist with man, as that would interfere with his outlook of life and way of understanding.

This has been a very staunch behaviour of man throughout his history, and any failure in the fulfilment of his outlook has been attributed to causes other than the real ones. We have not learned to be charitable in our feelings. There has been a very egoistic presentation of even our feelings in regard to things. Do you not believe that true charity is your ability to feel in the way others feel? To compel others to coordinate themselves with your own feelings is the autocrat’s attitude. This is not charity.

Charity expects not merely a concession grudgingly given to another’s viewpoint, but an acceptance of the presence of other equally valid points of view, so that man is not the sole master of creation. There are others who can call themselves masters in a similar manner. So man’s viewpoint, or his philosophy, need not be the final word; but he wants that his word should be final. Here is the great discovery behind the causes of man’s failure in life.

Unfortunately for us, the world does not behave the way we expect it to behave. This should awaken our mind to a further concession that perhaps we are not the rulers of the world. Many times it has been proven to us that the world is ruling over us; we are not ruling it. We have been subjected to the operation of the laws of the world in all the facets through which it manifests itself, and our voices have not been heard. Our prayers have been a cry in the wilderness. The sun has always managed to rise only in the east; it does not rise in any other direction. The day and the night, the seasons, nature’s vicissitudes, and all other concomitances of these processes have managed to maintain their position, regardless of what we would like their attitude towards us to be.

But more than all this, topping the list of all our difficulties, there is the unsolved problem of birth and death that clinches the whole matter before us. The final judgement is delivered by the world upon everyone here when it declares that it is not going to listen to our opinion in the matter of this great order which we regard as the phenomenon of dying and being born. We have absolutely no say in this matter. This is the last bolt that the world has struck upon us. “If you talk more, I will deal with you in this matter, in this way.” No man has escaped the notice of this operating law called birth and death.

While we may, under a pressure of necessity, accept that there is such a thing called subjection to birth and death, and we also concede that we have no control over this phenomenon, we try to push this event to a future date with the power of our imagination. We want to rule somehow or other, even in hell. The desire to rule is predominant in man and, somehow or other, he wants to make his voice heard and accepted, at least in some measure. So what does man say? “My dear friend, world, law of nature, you are telling me that you are not going to listen to my wish that I would like to be free from this turmoil of birth and death. But let me also be given a little choice, at least in some percentage. I am not going to die just now, though it may be true that one day I have to die.” So man cajoles himself, pats himself on the back and convinces himself from the bottom of his heart that his death, the call from the law of nature, is a distant possibility.

Previously, I gave you a faint idea as to how this world is unreal; it is a maya. I tried to present this fact before you in a new fashion, and not in the metaphysical way of Acharya Sankara or philosophers whom you have read. In a more intelligent and acceptable commonsense way, I tried to explain how the world is not as real as you are imagining it to be. Another difficulty here is that you are in another illusion, a different facet of this very same maya, which compels you to convince yourselves that the great call from the heavens is in the distant future, and not a possibility of this moment.

Who tells you this? Which document has recorded that it is in the distant future? No proof, no evidence comes forth that your conviction is right. Nevertheless, your conviction is your conviction, and everybody has to accept it. “What I say, I say, and it is forever.” Here again is man in his true colour. Everywhere man has demonstrated his stupidity. He has never behaved like an intelligent, wise individual; and he has asserted his ego to the utmost extent possible. The defiance of the existing laws, even in the teeth of utter failure, is the predominant conduct of the ego.

Now I come to the point from where I began. The world does not appear to be constituted in the way in which we think it is constituted, and our laws and regulations are not going to operate here. They have to be subjected to the higher law. What is this higher law?

I have taken up for these days’ discussion a theme which I have designated as ‘Religion and Social Values’, which epithet will give you an idea as to the goal so that I may not baffle you with any philosophical disquisition or lofty ideas which go over your heads—things which are usually associated with religion, philosophy, meditation, etc. It is, again, necessary to stand on our own feet and not stand in the air, without any support at the bottom. We have to move onwards and forward, ascend in the direction of the basic urges of the spirit within us under the circumstances which we have been able to discover with this little psychological and sociological analysis.

Many religions have failed; and seekers and sadhakas also have not always succeeded in their pursuits. I do not know if you have come across any person who could confidently say that he has attained full success and complete achievement in his efforts towards leading a spiritual life. A sorry face is cut by everyone finally, notwithstanding the herculean efforts in the path of meditation, japa, worship, and religious pursuits.

Is it not essential on our part to discover the causes of our failure? Or, are we to attribute it to God’s unkindness and the idiocy of the public around us? Our earlier analysis pointed out to some extent that our suffering is not due to the wickedness of other people, even though there may be untoward persons in the world. It is also unkind to call God unkind. An unkind God would not have planted in us an aspiration for kindness. An evil God who is bereft of the sense of goodness cannot enshrine the sense of goodness in our mind. How could the idea of goodness, rectitude and propriety arise in our mind if such a thing were not to exist in this world? How could a thing that does not exist anywhere in the world operate in our mind?

We have a rock bottom of misunderstanding due to our overwhelming occupation with the surface activities of life. We give excessive importance to the sensations emanating from our personality and the reports we receive in respect of these sensations. We are hungry, and we think that hunger is appeased by taking our daily meal. A daily meal is not a medicine for hunger. Hunger will persist, as if we have eaten nothing yesterday. The irrepressible appetite of the body is proof that breakfast and lunch are not going to satisfy this body; otherwise, it should have kept quiet after having been fed well. It is not going to keep quiet. A voracious, insatiable, infinite asking is the attitude of this body. Any amount of wheat and rice cannot satisfy it. All the granary of the world will not suffice to satisfy the hunger of the stomach. This is the attitude of this little body. The whole world cannot satisfy it.

Our mind also cannot be satisfied by any amount of entertainment. It is always dissatisfied. It has an impulse to ask for things whose nature it is not able to understand. It asks for peace. Many people say, “We want nothing but peace of mind,” without knowing what they mean by ‘peace of mind’. “I want only peace of mind.” “But what is your idea of peace of mind?” “I do not know. I have come to ask you.” Even what they expect and what they need is not clear to their own minds.

Is peace of mind a cessation of noise from the trucks and cars that ply nearby? If no vehicles move and there is no noise, and nobody speaks in your ears, can you say you have peace of mind? That is not peace of mind. If no noise is made anywhere near you, and you hear nothing, you see nothing— that also cannot be called peace of mind. So, what is it that you are asking for? You do not know. Are you not asking for a thing whose characteristic you yourself do not know?

You love beautiful things, artistic arrangements. There is what is called the aesthetic impulse. Why does this impulse arise in you? How is it that you love only beauty and not ugliness? What is wrong with ugly things? You cannot answer this question. Ugly things are ugly things; beautiful things are beautiful things. “I do not like ugly things.” Why do you not like ugly things? What defects do you see in that which you call ugly? Why do you give it that name? Who asked you to give that peculiar designation of ugliness to that which you do not like? And why do you not like it? You cannot answer this question. “I like this. I do not like this. That is all.” The matter ends.

There is an insatiable hunger of the intellect and the reason to know more and more. Here again, an insatiable appetite operates within you, in the body, in the mind and in the intellect. You pursue your studies, and pursue them further and further. You go to foreign countries and pursue studies more and more, and they never end. There is something which you cannot understand even afterwards. Finally—I come to the point—there is something which keeps you in terrible insecurity of what will happen to you tomorrow, or even the next moment. “The greatest wonder in the world,” said Yudhishthira, “is that man, while he accepts the eventuality of dying, imagines that he is exempt from this phenomenon.”

You carry dead bodies to the cremation grounds and drop crocodile tears for a few minutes, but never do you feel, “This is the way I have to tread. Even if it be true that this is the way I have to walk, it is not today.” What can be a greater wonder than this? What can be a greater wonder than the fact that you are asking for things which you cannot understand? How is it that you cannot understand anything, and yet you are asking for everything? Here comes the need for a larger outlook and a deeper study of things. The present educational career is inadequate. It is empirical, it is sensory, it is a make-believe; it is a tentative adjustment and a workable arrangement, not an in-depth entry into the facts of things.

You stand on unstable ground when you conduct yourselves in this world on the basis of the knowledge that you have acquired through your studies. Your studies are not studies of the truths of things. That is why with all your studies, degrees and qualifications, you are still at a loss, and find yourself in a most unhappy situation, and do not know how to live in this world. This difficulty manifests itself after your studies are over. As long as you are a student, you have no problems because you are with your books; parents, or somebody, take care of you. You have no worry of any kind. But when the studies are over, the world looks at you as it is really: “Now, what do you say about me?”

Just as an unsatisfied wife may keep quiet as long as her husband is in the office but puts forth her grievances the moment he returns from work, nature seems to be behaving in a similar way. It keeps quiet as long as you are studying in your colleges. “All things are over. Now what do you say about me?”—and it keeps you restless afterwards. This is because you have been following a wrong path even in your studies and educational career; and neither your parents, your government, your society nor your friends have been good enough or intelligent enough to tell you what your problems are going to be when you become an adult. They have managed to keep you in the dark, because they themselves are in the dark. 

Here comes the need for a new type of education. You may call it religion. If you have any other name for it, you can bring that name forward. It is a participation in the order of the universe that you are required to extend, and not an interest evinced to utilise nature for your personal purpose. Scientific inventions and political manoeuvres, even sociological pursuits and projects, have been adventures in the direction of grabbing something from nature, controlling it, bending it down, and harnessing it for one’s own social purposes. This would not be successful, because the world is not the slave of any man. Oftentimes, man has been proven to be the slave of natural laws. Nature can suddenly burst a bomb on the head of all humanity, which she has been keeping secretly tucked under the arm because the time for it has not come. The whole Earth can shake, and the matter ends there in one second.

A few days back I read in a newspaper that after some months there will be an alignment of seven or eight planets with the Sun, and the Earth can be shaken. A bolt, a jerk, a kick can be given to the Earth by the other planets; and we know very well what we can expect if a kick is given to the whole Earth. We hope that a kick will not be given because such a kick has never been given up to this time, and we always believe that a thing which has never happened will not happen. This is our logic.

There is, therefore, a necessity to undergo a new and true type of education. Here again, we have some problem. We may feel a need, but we may not be able to fulfil that need easily because circumstances in the world are not favourable. People frighten us by saying that Kali Yuga has come and this is not an age to gain an insight into the reality of things. Their gospel is that until Treta Yuga comes, until the Kalki Avatar is over, man has no hope. But the whole world is a mystery still, and this gospel is not the final word. I do not think that the Kali Age which people speak of is confined merely to the time calculations given in our almanacs. It is a perpetual process which can be called by this name of the cyclic movements of Krita, Treta, Dvapara and Kali.

In every moment of time, a circumstance arises in everyone’s life when the conditions of the fourfold cycle manifest themselves; and inasmuch as God is timeless, the conditions of time may not always operate, because there is also the timeless element in man. We have the power to summon God, though we also have the weakness of getting subjected to nature’s laws. So we are difficult individuals, very hard to understand, and every bit of the secret of the universe is present within ourselves. Every switch of every connection with everything in the world is present within us. Man is the switchboard of the whole cosmos. We can operate all the planes of existence by touching some parts of our body, without moving an inch from where we are sitting. This is the facility that is provided to man—the greatness, rather. But his utter weakness is that he cannot do this operation, for reasons that we have to discover by a further analysis. What is this difficulty?

There are people in this world who belong to two camps. There are those who say that religion has killed man; it has driven him into an imaginary realm of the other world of happiness which he is seeking, and which he cannot find in this world. Inasmuch as religions speak of another world where alone we can expect felicity, and it is always said that this is a world of sorrow—Mrityu Loka, the world of death—there is nothing that can attract us here. “Vairagya is my aspiration,” says the spiritual seeker. “I give up this world. I practice renunciation, self-abnegation. I take to religious practice.”

If this is the attitude of all people, there is nothing that one can do with this world. There is no such thing as a welfare program for human society, or even a love of one’s own neighbour. The question does not arise at all. There is no neighbour for us because the world is not there for us. This is a religious gospel that can be found in the scriptures of all the faiths of the world, and sometimes it is regarded as the interpretation of the teachings of the prophets of religions. Many have taken to this line of approach that the world is Satan’s dominion; it is evil to the core. It is a temptress, it is a network of sensory relations, it is a three-dimensional illusion, and the earlier we get out of its clutches, the better for us. God is in the heavens, and the love of God cannot go hand in hand with the love of the world. Renunciation is the high watermark of religious aspiration. Vairagya is the last word of religion.

All fakirs, monks and nuns—seekers of God— left their homes, father and mother, wife, husband, children, property, and went to live in forests and deserts. They have no concern with humanity or with any living being, or with the Earth itself as a whole. This attitude sometimes becomes the last word in religion, and the only word of religion. Man is naturally forced to become callous even to his body. He regards starvation, fasting, vigil, and a drying up of his senses as the essence of religion. He closes his eyes and bolts his ears and paralyses his senses completely. He gets emaciated physically and socially. Neither does he want anything from the world, nor has he anything to do with the world. Do you not think that this has been the voice of the religions of the world? 

It appears that there was some mistake in this gospel, though there may be some truth in what these people say. Because of the extreme step that these gospels took in the history of their growth, a reaction was set up. Whenever there is an extreme of behaviour even in our body, there is a reaction from the organism in the form of an ache, a pain or a high temperature which arises to rectify the extreme step that has been taken by certain attitudes of the body—such as overeating, fatigue, and so on.

No man does anything in this world; nature alone does everything. The whole universe is a single body, and the world or nature as a whole— the universe, if we would like to call it that— behaves in the same way as the body behaves. Just as no limb of the body acts independently, no man can work independently here. We have neither a friend nor an enemy in this world. We cannot love anybody nor hate anybody, just as we cannot have a particular attachment to one part of our body or hate any part of the body.

I will again repeat that the world behaves in the same way as this body behaves. So whenever there is an excessive activity of a particular part of the body, there is a reaction set up by other parts of the body. Every medical person knows this; even common sense knows this. So any step in the direction of an excess, whether it is a secular move or a religious move, is counterbalanced by the total reaction of nature which can take the form of a historical revolution, a financial crisis, an earthquake, a social catastrophe or an epidemic which will wipe out nations; and unthinkable sorrows may descend upon man.

We should not say that some people are acting. People are not acting; nature is acting. As I told you, there are no people here. There is only a widespread movement of the fingers of nature. I am a finger, you are a finger, and every atom is a finger of nature. So neither this nation is doing something, nor is that nation doing anything. Neither are we doing anything, nor is anybody else doing anything. Nature is doing everything—just as neither are the fingers of our body doing anything, nor is our nose doing anything, nor are our eyes doing anything, but the whole body is doing everything. It is the order of the requisition of the organism of our psychophysical setup that behaves in the form of a headache, a sneeze, a stomach ache, or fatigue of our legs. It is not the legs that ache; the whole body is demanding that ache. Likewise, no nation is behaving in any manner; it is the whole of the universe behaving in one particular required way to set up an extreme step that has been taken either by financiers, capitalists, poor people, selfish persons, religious people, or whatever be the section of people. Any ignored aspect of nature takes up arms, as any ignored limb of the body takes up arms. It wants to be listened to. Even a child who is ignored will cry loudly, at the top of its voice, so that we will hear only its voice and we cannot hear anybody else’s.

The cults and the creeds and the movements in society today, whether they are social or political, are reactions set up by nature, not by man. There is no man. Such a thing does not exist anywhere. Nature does not see people around; it sees only its own limbs. It simply shakes its body. As we stretch our legs when we are tired of sitting in one asana for a long time, nature will stretch her legs when her leg is aching because of a forced bending of that limb to the needs of certain sections of human beings. This is a larger outlook with which we may behold things, rather than studying things only from a political angle or historical viewpoint, or a merely geological or astronomical way of thinking.

The universe is neither political, sociological, geological, nor astronomical. These are only our complacent ways of studying things. For the whole of the universe, there is no astronomy, geology, politics, sociology, just as for our body there is no anatomy, physiology, medicine, etc. They are only our names, and our way of studying and interpreting. It is what it is. Until we learn the art of thinking in this context of nature’s setup, we are not educated persons. We are only holding a piece of paper with some ink scribbled over it, calling it a certificate or a degree. This piece of paper with a little ink splashed over it is not going to be our support when nature shows her claws and her teeth. 

This gospel of religion to which I made reference just now, while it took its stand on certain correct presuppositions in the light of the higher values of life, went wrong in ignoring certain existent values. Man is not merely a religious being; he is also many other things. We may be aspirants after God—and we have to be such aspirants, granted—but we are not only this. You may be a Commissioner or a Collector. Who can say that you are not that? You are that. But if you go on behaving like a Commissioner or a Collector everywhere—in the bathroom, in the marketplace, in the shop, with your wife, with your children, with everybody— you know what will happen to you.

So, that you are a Commissioner is not gainsaid. You are that, and you have to behave like a Collector or a Commissioner when you are required to behave like that. But you are also something else. You are the husband of a wife. You are the father of a child. You are perhaps a sick man requiring medical aid, or you have some frustrated emotions. You have many sorrows in spite of the fact that you are a Cabinet Minister. Now, how can you say that you will simply brush aside all your requirements of the other side and behave only like a Commissioner or a Cabinet Minister? Thus, these religions have made this mistake of catering to only one side of man’s needs. They always behave like Presidents or Prime Ministers. They never thought that they are also hungry stomachs, and they have other small needs which cannot be completely set aside in the name of this great designation of a Prime Minister.

This was the mistake of the religions. That is why religions are now tottering with feeble legs in this world, and people think that perhaps religions will be wiped out completely, even as your post of a Commissioner or a Collector can be wiped out by one jolt from the body which will snatch you away from this world. If your physical condition is ignored, if you do not know that you are a sick man, your Commissionership can be wiped out in one second by that blow of death. Religion can vanish in one second, as is the tendency these days, due to reactions from ideologies, outlooks and philosophies which have something else to say. The philosophy of the stomach is sometimes different from the philosophy of the brain. It is not the same thing. It is the philosophy of the stomach that is speaking nowadays, and the brain is keeping quiet.

Thus, the sorrows of people, which are manysided, are the consequences of reactions set up by the organic structure of the whole of nature. To live a healthy life is, therefore, to live a life of participation in the order of the larger organism to which you belong. You should not imagine that you are only one thing, and not many other things. You are a citizen of a nation. You belong to some country and, therefore, you have some obligations as a citizen of this nation. You cannot say, “I am the Atman and, therefore, I have nothing to say to anybody.” You are not the Atman to such an extent, though it is true that you are the Atman. I bring the analogy once again. Do not forget it. You are not only that, though you are also that.

You have a family obligation, and an obligation to your own community, to your body, to your mind, to your moral sense, to your aesthetic callings, to your rational requisitions—and to your spiritual aspirations, finally and lastly. All these things have to be taken into consideration. Therefore, religion, spirituality, which is also called yoga, is a union of yourself with all the phases of life at once. Just as a successful man is not merely a Collector but also everything else that he is at the same time, a simultaneous awareness of this involvement in the whole setup of life, and not only to behave just from one angle of vision, is the wisdom of life.

“Yoga is union” has often been repeated, again and again, by teachers and masters—but, union with what? You suddenly say, “Union with God; union with the Atman.” This is your glib reply. This reply will not be sufficient unless it is properly interpreted and understood. It is union with Reality. And if you think God is the only reality, the Reality, and yoga is an attempt at union with that Reality, we grant this definition as perfectly valid. But the weakness of man insinuates itself even into this definition of the concept of Reality and God. The weakness of the religions that went to the extremes, about which I mentioned just now, begins to operate even here, and the true concept of God does not enter our heads. We always pray looking up to the skies: “O Lord, have mercy upon us. Free us from these sorrows of life, from this encumbrance, this torture. Take me to Your abode and keep me on Your lap.” This is how we generally pray to God. This is our idea of God.

This is not a correct idea of God. As you call God by a name that is not applicable to Him wholly, He also does not respond to you correctly. Unless the call is complete, the response cannot be complete. If a partial wing of yourself—or rather, an imperfect side of your nature—independently calls out to a God according to its own partial definitions and concepts, a response comes corresponding to this imperfect call, and the imperfectness of that response can have a repercussion on the other aspects of your nature which have not been consulted in your call. That is why you have family problems, troubles in offices, and anxieties everywhere. Whatever the number of japa or the rolling of beads that you perform in the calling of God, you have not been able to receive a response because you have always managed to resent a correct understanding of the circumstances of your life and the nature of God Himself. And, as I tried to explain earlier, you have not been able to understand even the first step that you have to take. You have tried to take the last step, while you are on the lowest pedestal of life.

All religious enthusiasts try to take the last step in religious pursuits and go to the utter extreme, to the ruin of their heath and their social associations. Rebirth cannot be avoided if you directly attempt to approach a pedestal of union for which you are not meant when a neglected call pulls you forcefully down to the level of the Earth. The Earth has its gravitation. It will not allow you to fly in the air, and anyone who tries to fly in the air without proper wings will damage his body by falling down on the Earth.

Thus, it is not enough if you regard yourself as devotees, disciples of a Guru, religious seekers and spiritual aspirants. You must have also the wisdom to discover why you have failed in your pursuits. This is another great question which requires further investigation and study.