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A Society as a Spiritual Organisation
by Swami Krishnananda

(Spoken on September 29, 1979 at the 30th All India Divine Life Society Conference.)

It may be difficult for many of you to absorb all the noble ideas and immortal messages which have been pressed into your minds by the powerful speakers today as well as yesterday, but where there is interest, anything is possible. You can remember a whole world in your heads if you are really concerned with it, but you cannot remember anything, even the least of it, if you have no relationship with it. If there is an aspiration and the recognition of value in the deliberations of this conference, you will be able to remember every word that has been spoken. But if you have no interest, an axe to grind or distracted attention, it will be hard for the brain to retain this world of ideas, though they have an eternal value.

The body of a horse or a cow is constituted of the same substances as are found in the body of a human being. The five elements earth, water, fire, air, ether – prithvi, apu, teja, vayu, akasha – form the substance of the body of an animal, and also form the substance of the body of a human being. This is the similarity, broadly speaking, between an animal and a man. But a man is different from the animal because a man in human society does not think as an animal thinks. The peculiar differentia of human nature is the capacity to rise qualitatively above the mere mechanistic existence of the physical structure of an animal.

Such a difference is there between an organisation like The Divine Life Society and other organisations. They are societies, and The Divine Life Society also is such a one. The similarity is something like the similarity that is visible between the animal and the human being. An industrial society is as much a legal body as The Divine Life Society, The Aurobindo Society or any other such organisation. They have an outward similarity of structure and methodology of working, but there is an inward transcendence by way of a qualitative rising above the level of the merely social, political, industrial organisation.

We are not merely running a Society, and we are not merely an audience seated here to listen to a lecture delivered by a learned person or to hear a message that is imparted by a profound intelligence. We are here for a purpose which is superior to the purely organisational or social purpose.

The righteousness which characterises human society, if it is to be a solid and enduring one, is certainly a super-social feature. The stability of society does not rest with the society itself. It is in a principle which is super-social, just as the health of our body does not depend entirely on the food that we eat and the physical exercises that we perform, but on the way in which we live. There is a peculiarity which is known as the conduct of life, the character of the personality and the envisagement of values in general. They condition our physical health, and they also determine the stability and solidarity of human society.

The Divine Life Society is one among a few endeavours of humankind directed towards the implanting of a super-social value in the social structure of humanity. Our visible evaluation of things cannot be the principle behind our judgment of values. Our eyes are not correct judges. We have a reason which is superior in its capability to the diversified activities of the senses. Therefore, we have to draw a specific distinguishing line between a spiritual organisation and a purely industrial or business society.

Here is a great example before us. The Divine Life Society, notwithstanding the fact that it is a spiritual organisation, is also a social organisation, but with an important defining characteristic of its own. While we are generally impelled to completely dissociate the eternity of spiritual living from the transience of temporal life, it has become necessary to rethink along these lines today and to go deep into the difficulties of spiritual life itself. All those who take to spiritual life are not necessarily successful spiritual adepts. A life in a cathedral, a monastery, a convent or an ashram is not a guarantee to spiritual success because having a mere geographical location is not a spiritual achievement.

A spiritual organisation is, therefore, an effort of the soul of the human being, an enterprise of the spirit within, to introduce itself into the nook and corner of the activities which are usually temporal and material. To transform matter into spirit, society into a religious resplendence, would be a need of the hour. There is no need to go into the details of the cause of why religion has failed today. It has become almost a kind of mockery, and even those who profess religion do not seem to be satisfied with their own religions. A spiritual seeker is not inwardly happy with his own spiritual seeking. A religious, ardent devotee is inwardly agonised in spite of his religious devotion. Churches are not happy places, temples are not great examples of perfection, and today we are wondering as to what has happened to the so-called spirituality of the scriptures and the religions of the adepts.

The human movements that we see today, which may be called social or political movements, are not a descent from the skies. They are an efflorescence of human nature itself. The political and social movements, the various diversifying tendencies that we see in society today, are expressions of the problems of human nature. We cannot deceive ourselves by being merely a showpiece of religion or spirituality. Our advertisement that we are spiritual seekers is not going to save us from the ocean of troubles into which we are going to be thrown one day or the other. Any kind of publication, any kind of advertisement, even a recognition by a body of people, is not going to be a certificate that can save us when in danger. We have to remember this.

It is high time that we investigate into our own selves. There is no use condemning other organisations and other movements of society as inadequate and erroneous, because the erroneous movements are motivated and propelled by people like us, who think like us. They are just like us, and it is up to us to find out the causes behind this aberration in the thoughts of human beings. It is a total distrust in the very structure of human thinking that has landed us in this sorrow of politics or logical impasse. There is, therefore, no purpose in merely pasting a label on our foreheads or raising a placard in our institutions that we are such and such, that we are an international society. Nothing is going to happen.

I once received an invitation to participate in a conference of some organisation which called itself the Intergalactic Society. I did not know whether it was in the Milky Way or in the star Sirius. Now, these are wonderful movements indeed, and we do not know how these ideas arise in the minds of people that we are always international and interstellar, while we are sorrow incarnate in the deepest recesses of our hearts.

Can any one of us be confident that we are truly religious people and truly lovers of God, and that we are really fit instruments to receive help, succour, and grace from the Almighty? If each one of you can positively declare, “Yes, I regard myself as a fit instrument to receive the grace of the Almighty,” well, it shall come to you just now. But you may be suspicious: “I am not fit for it. I have got peculiar difficulties which are not in consonance with the requirement of the divine kingdom.” If this doubt is eating into your vitals, it is up to you to remove this thorn from your own hearts which is bleeding with pricking pain, and become sincere and honest.

It is honesty in the eyes of God that should be called divine life, and it is not merely a social honesty or sincerity of an external sense. It is a sincerity which would be recognised by the law or the righteousness which is in the kingdom of heaven, and if this righteousness could be the working policy of our organisations, we could call these organisations divine organisations. But if we are only political stooges in the hands of powers that are merely temporal and selfish, and if we have secret motives which are other than divine and godly, then God has to take exceptional measures to pardon us, breaking the laws of the divine kingdom if we are to be saved; otherwise, there is no hope.

I am not giving any message to you, but I am thinking loudly from the bottom of my own heart that unless each individual becomes a fit instrument in the hands of superior powers, the Society is not going to be spiritual or religious, because what is a Society but that which you have made by a joining together, a coming together of your own selves? As many drops make the ocean, this human society is nothing but you yourself. You cannot say that the government should do it, or society should do it because you are part of that organisation. What is government? It is nothing but people like you thinking together in some coordination. So when you say it is the responsibility of the government, not yours, you are talking through your hat because you forget that you are a part and parcel of that organisation which has created this government. When you say that it is the responsibility of society, you forget that you are a part of society.

It is very difficult for people to think in an unselfish and impersonal manner, in a cosmical sense. We are born into an atmosphere of dirt-and-rubbish thinking which is utterly bodily and selfish to the core. We have been taught this education right from childhood. Our parents misguide us and our colleges or schools take us along the wrong path by giving us education which is not going to help us in any manner whatsoever. It is a sorry state of affairs. We have been telling this a hundred times, a thousand times, in every meeting, in every organisation and from every pulpit, but nothing is happening. Why? Because nobody wants that anything worthwhile should take place.

I am again reminded of a humorous anecdote of Sri Ramakrishna Parmahamsadeva: Our devotion to the higher ideal is something like the sorrow of a lady whose husband has just died; she strikes her head down on the ground to exhibit her grief over the death of her husband, but is careful at the same time that her nose ornament, nath, is not broken. She is very aware that this ornament should not be spoiled, so she holds it while striking her head on the ground. If this is our religion, if this is our devotion, if this is our honest participation in the welfare of mankind or society, then we can imagine the consequences.

Great masters like Ramakrishna Parmahamsa, Swami Vivekananda, Swami Rama Tirtha, Sri Aurobindo, Mahatma Gandhi, Ramana Maharshi, Swami Sivananda and a train of these great spiritual stalwarts came as ambassadors of God Himself to awaken us from the slumber and stupidity of ignorance, to inculcate once again the gospel of being good in ourselves honestly and sincerely, and to respect the divine law.

I repeat once again the great proclamation of Jesus Christ, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Why do you run after profit in business? The profit will automatically come like the tail behind a dog. The dog need not worry whether the tail will come or not. It shall come. So there will be profit; why do you worry? You will succeed. Everything will come to you, provided you seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things – this breakfast, this lunch, this jalabi, this kheer, these parathas – everything will come automatically even without your thinking of it. Why do you run after it and cry for it?

Unfortunate is the state of affairs that we cannot fully trust in this great dictum of the holy master. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God” is the message of eternity, and “Follow the righteousness which belongs to Him” is the law of the cosmos which is mentioned in the Vedas as satya and rita. The kingdom of God which Christ speaks of is nothing but the satya which the Vedas speak of, and the righteousness which is referred to here is the principle of cosmic organisation. Ṛtaṁ ca satyaṁ cābhīd (Mahanarayana Up. 63) says the Rigveda. This law which is the righteousness of the Absolute is the condition of a successful, honest and divine living in this world.

So the cause must come first, and the effect follows afterwards. We cannot think only of the effects. The immediate salary to be increased, the promotion that we want, a transfer to a proper place or things of that kind are the last effects, antecedents of causes, ultimately reaching to God Himself. Until the ultimate cause is organically connected to the little effects that we are thinking of in our minds, there will be no tangible success. So God has to be present in everything, and a society which is organised by God Himself ultimately, literally speaking, is a divine life society. It is, therefore, not only this particular group of people calling themselves divine lifers, but all humanity is a divine life society in a more general and impersonal sense.

I request you all, humble souls, devotees of God, disciples of Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, to remember these essentials that I have tried to speak before you in a few words. God bless you all.