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Religion and Social Values
by Swami Krishnananda

Appendix: The Role of Supermen in the Resuscitation of Human Culture

In offering the purnavati to our worship at the feet of Sri Gurudev, we once again supplicate before his compassionate presence to bless us all with his unbounded grace, perennial succour and perpetual care in our humble attempts to walk in his footsteps in this world of turmoil, in this world of many a vicissitude, sorrow and suffering, in this world of births and deaths.

Human effort is only a symbol, a tool, an instrument which the divine power wields, as it were, in the enactment of its great drama in the form of this vast arena of activity—this world, these processes of coming and going, evolution and involution. And after eighteen years of his physical disappearance, we remember him with a greater intensity of fervour, since the more distant we move from that which we endearingly enshrine in our minds, the more do we feel its absence. That which we loved most appears to become dearer and dearer as time passes, and we recall to our memories this dear something whose presence was not fully comprehended when we were in his physical proximity, but whose absence we feel with anguish as lost children.

We are totally handicapped people in this world, and cannot see one step ahead with a clear mind. The human mind is narrow in its vision. Our eyes are dim, beclouded with the limitations to which our bodies and minds are subject. With this imperfect instrument of a tamasic body and a rajasic mind, what insight can we gain either into the mysteries of the spiritual path, the way of religion, or the great goal of moksha? The little understanding, the little aspiration and the small efforts that we seem to be putting forth in the form of our sadhana is itself grace operating.

When children playfully spin toys in their hands, if the toys had consciousness and a feeling of their own being, they could as well appropriate this revolution to their own effort, completely oblivious of the fact that they are being backed by another power, of which they have no knowledge.

Similar to the way God Himself works in this world, the great siddhas, incarnations, avataras, mahapurushas, and Gurus work here as ambassadors of God Himself. Sri Gurudev stands before us as an unparalleled example of human perfection which exhibited in its own daily life the glory of God's mercy, compassion and saving grace. There were instances galore, which were gathered from the memories of disciples and devotees who lived with him, that demonstrated superhuman features in his apparently human personality.

Goodness is not an easy thing for man to handle and wield in his daily life. It is with difficulty that we become good. Great effort is necessary to manifest goodness. Normally, we are selfish. We grind our own axe, even with a label of sacrifice and altruism. We always have an eye on our family and our own personal career, official or otherwise, which is always kept in view before we take any step in the direction of any service or extending what may be called true goodness. But supermen like Sri Gurudev seem to have descended upon this Earth as men with a mission, unlike many of us who seem to have an individual vision of personal sadhana and are struggling to move in the direction of what we consider as our goal of life.

Most of us, perhaps all of us, have only an individual mission. We have not come with a cosmic mission because we are still treading the path at the very initial stage, and we do not feel competent to shoulder the responsibility of world uplift—or any kind of uplift except our own. But these adhikara purushas, as they are usually called, do not come with any particular individual mission of their own. They have no mission of their own, but rather a larger mission which concerns the people around them. Some of the prophets of religions had a mission which was confined to the country in which they were born and the language of the area in which they incarnated themselves. Their gospel was essential for remedying the defects and the grosser forms of the life of those people in that area, and their mission ended with that performance.

Sometimes there may be a more limited form of mission in the case of certain mahapurushas; and with a single lift that they give to even one individual, they may perform a larger miracle through that instrumentality. The great master may have only one disciple, and that one disciple would be enough for him. Through that single instrument, he could work the great mission of his incarnation. There are others, like Gurudev Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, who came with a particular mission which, as I mentioned, cannot be compared with the missions with which other prophets came to the world—namely, working for the waking up of people from the sleep into which they have sunk due to certain historical reasons or psychological causes.

Every one of you has some idea as to the background of human history towards the beginning of the twentieth century. It was a time when humanity required a shaking up of the very outlook of life, and great masters were born in the world, not merely in India. They did not come to teach any particular scripture such as the Upanishad, the Brahma Sutra or the Bhagavadgita, or to become a pundit in a school or a college. Their mission was not scriptural or linguistic. It was not an academic or a scholar's work for which they came into this world. Their mission was a different thing altogether. It was a very essential work that had to be done at the beginning of this era, when materialism appeared to have become rampant in the world. Materialism does not necessarily mean belief in the ultimate reality of matter. This is a metaphysical definition of materialism. Commonly and generally speaking, materialism is the way in which most people live in the world.

A little prayer to God and a bowing down of one's head before a shrine need not prevent a person from being a materialist in his day-to-day movement and behaviour, because one can be religious in the temple but a materialist in daily behaviour. In fact, what we call materialism is the confirmed belief that we cannot exist without depending on things outside. The reality of things outside is so much taken for granted that they are not merely as real as our own bodies and ourselves, but perhaps they are more real. We may be real. This body of ours is a very great reality indeed. Who can deny its reality? But in our daily behaviour, a greater reality is sometimes afforded to the rations that we have to collect from the shop, the money that we have to earn in our offices, and sometimes even a psychological type of materialism of asking for authority, power, status, name, fame, and so on. These are all very subtle and immediate forms of a material outlook.

But much worse was the condition when Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj was born. The great sages in India who were his contemporaries were working in a similar direction for a reorientation of the outlook of the whole of India—and through India, of the whole world. We know very well the evaluation of values during the Victorian Age. Those who have read history, anthropology, geography and commercial philosophy, of the beginning of this century especially, would know to some extent how people in India lived.

Setting aside for the time being the impact of Swami Sivananda on the world as a whole, it goes without saying that in India he brought about a tremendous revolution in the very thinking process of mankind. Again I bring your mind back to the condition in which people were at the beginning of this century. There was a craze for new discoveries, much to the discomfiture and sorrow of Indians themselves, leaving a feeling that India had nothing to give to Indians. India had to import its importance from foreign countries. All things foreign were worshipped as divinities. Even a pencil made in a foreign country was valued more than a pencil made in India. The rulers who ruled over India then were strong, and confirmed the belief in the minds of Indians that strength is not in India, that it lay outside India, that there was practically nothing in India—neither economic security, nor intellectual acumen, nor the capacity to administer the country, nor even religion worth the name.

It was a sorry state of affairs when he who was once upon a time proclaimed to be a child of the Immortal sank back in fear of the very same Immortal, with shame and a shuddering attitude, and became an accomplice by effecting a compromise with the glamour of Western civilisation which was identified with material gain, though Western civilisation does not necessarily mean material gain. These epochs to which I refer were of a trend which gave excessive importance to an industrial revolution of the nations of the world and a working for an enhanced form of economic security—and a scientific outlook, over and above all things.

This scientific outlook, which came like a bogey and hit minds across the width of India with a tremendous force, had the disastrous effect of converting budding Indians into helpless tools of a foreign power who successfully managed to drive into the minds of our people that they are a total defeat in every field of life. India knew no success. It had gained nothing. There was nothing that could be counted even with one finger as being of any significance within the country called India. Indians were ashamed to utter the name ‘India'. They would not hear the words ‘Veda' or ‘Upanishads'. They were bureaucrats, aristocrats, British in outlook, English in thinking, economic in their daily behaviour, and scientific in their aspirations. It appeared as if doom was to descend upon mankind. And when nature recognises that her forces are directing themselves to an extreme of behaviour, she works for a balancing of her inner structure.

You might have seen the flood of great geniuses that inundated the cultural history of India during the period I am referring to in this twentieth century, right from Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa with his disciple Swami Vivekananda, the great cultural revolutionist Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Keshav Chandra Sen, and the founders of the Brahmo Samaj. There was Rabindranath Tagore and his followers; then we have the great names of Aurobindo Ghosh, Ramana Maharsi and Ramdas. Even Mahatma Gandhi has to be included as a religious prophet if his inner life is to be studied, divesting it from merely its political associations.

Swami Sivananda came, perhaps at the end of the trail, carrying this light to crown the entire efforts of these masters who moved Earth and heaven to demonstrate to the world at large that there is a secret greatness in Bharatvarsha, India. It was a sleeping lion. It was an elephant which was asleep. It had an emperor's wealth within itself, but this emperor was in a state of slumber. He had to be awakened. There was nothing that India lacked either culturally, scientifically, aesthetically, economically, religiously, spiritually, or even politically.

There was sometimes a setback felt by the children of Mother India in their historical career, for which they had to pay through the nose. And where we have our weaknesses, we have to accept our weaknesses. But weakness itself is not our be-all and end-all. We have also to pronounce that we have something within us other than the little weakness that subjected us to a retrogression in our historical moments.

Do you believe, and can you convince yourself of, the respect that India commands today in the various vocations of life compared to the slavish subjection in which it was involved in the beginning of this century? What a revolution has come about! Indians were considered a heap of sheep who were worth nothing; and today we know where our country stands in every field, not merely in one or two. To what do we attribute this success?

God's miraculous operative hands, of course, are behind all success. It is to be taken for granted first and foremost that God is first, as Gurudev never tired of saying. But His messengers also worked very hard. His ambassadors were untiringly engaged in holding aloft the banner of the glorious culture of Bharatvarsha—which was not merely of this world, and not merely of the other world, but of all life in its total comprehensiveness. India lacked and lagged behind nothing. Today, after the advent of these great masters, we are in a secure position to a large extent. Today we can sit in a little comfort in our homes and enjoy some sort of freedom with our family members, convinced that we are also something, and we are not just nothing.

This awakening has been effected by these predecessors of the present youth generation, and in the context of the present occasion of our worship to Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, we have to lay special stress on the crowning effect that his work produced on mankind as a whole. Here came a man; we may also call him a son of man, in the language of the Bible, because he was the son of the call of humanity. It was the summoning of mankind at a period of total unrest and sorrow that invoked the manifestation of these masters. Our obeisance to them is the way in which we repay our debt.

As I mentioned earlier, these masters constitute a fraternity of their own. Whether it is Sri Aurobindo, Swami Sivananda, Ramana Maharshi or Sri Ramakrishna, they are not isolated individuals; they are a brotherhood by themselves. They worked for a common purpose through different media and various languages, emphasising different conditions of life according to the needs of the Earth in the historical process of the nations of the world.

Thus, Gurudev Swami Sivananda was a historical figure, a history-maker whose name I believe will be recorded in the history of the world as one who worked indefatigably for the resuscitation of human culture, not merely India's culture. He brought the dead God once again into the lives of people, and made God the living, guiding, vital principle in the workaday existence of mankind. That which was most neglected and almost forgotten—the divine principle—was brought to the forefront as the only important factor. It was not an easy thing to do. Only a superman can work this miracle; and it was done for the benefit of everyone, to our satisfaction. He did singly what thousands could not do with their little brains or small bodies. These are the characteristics of supermen.

Such a superman has been with us and is with us, to whom we offer obeisance.