RELIGION, THE IMPORTANT PROBLEM OF LIFE.
There are many things in our lives the real nature of which is not clearly known. Nevertheless we are obliged to talk about them and to deal with them as though we know everything about them. It is true that a practical work-a-day knowledge is enough in many cases and it may be said that work-a-day knowledge is not wide or deep. But none the less it ought to be clear and accurate as far as it goes; else it cannot make for use. Therefore it is but meet that we open our eyes and look in the face of several things that we have to do with in the full light of our understanding and try to know them as they are, at all events as they appear to us to be. It is very easy to be intellectually mendacious; but to an erect mind nothing can be more repugnant.
Of the numerous problems of life which press for their solution at the hands of each one of us, Religion is perhaps the most important. If consensus of weighty opinion running through the wide centuries be taken as an indication of the importance of this matter, Religion has the most undisputed claim to be called the one absorbing interest of man. It is true that various other interests have of late entered the lists to claim for a recognition of their own importance. But in spite of all the clamor that is raised, the claimants are still kept at bay, while religion is still recognized as the master of the field. It is wonderful indeed how it has succeeded in keeping its place against such determined attacks especially when we consider that there are so many different forms of religions in the world and some of them in a very low state of culture. For if the humbler form of it would be proved to be provisional and made by purely human causes the same arguments could be priori, urged against the more refined ones also. The result must be, religion ought to have long been dethroned from men's hearts. But it is far otherwise; though it is in some quarters exiled from men's reason, it is not yet dethroned from men's hearts.
Under such circumstances, it will not be waste of time, it is hoped, to sift the ground about this question and consider its essential nature so that we might have that practical work-a-day knowledge of it without which we cannot live a complete life. If our religion be only reluctant let-goism in deference to female superstition or cowardly conformity to extinguish habits – alike the out-come of mental decrepitude, it is time that it should be once for all said so: that the few erect souls that are beginning their lives may not be dazzled into conformity by any mistaken notion of it, universality, or duped into superstition for less intellectual motives. Therefore let us try to inquire into its essential nature. The subject is indeed vast and requires a mastery of thought which I cannot lay claim to. Bu yet for men in my stage of culture, and for myself in particular, the attempt will not be barren of results. It can at least make me conscious of the elements of my moral balance whereof religion is taken to be such an important factor and if others could be stimulated to make a like search into their hearts, the writer's wishes will be more than fulfilled. But from those whose stage of culture is higher, nothing but kind indulgence is craved.
What is religion? What factors go to make our fundamental conception of it? This is the question we have to answer at the very outset of all inquiry into religion. Though an answer to it involves the subject matter of the whole paper, yet a provisional conception is required for its subsequent development and clear enunciation.
If we pass in review before our mind all the religions of the world we find that, much as they differ in several particulars, they all agree in a few definite points, We must, at the outset, state clearly what those definite points are; the object of which is, if anywhere we find the term religion used so as not to include those points, we might discard it as not having the impress of general recognition. The points that seem to me to differentiate every religion are:-
(1) That it is a philosophy of life.
(2) That it looks to the future more than to the present.
(3) That it has a vesture of ceremonies.
(4) That it is a social bond.
(5) That it demands support and sacrifice from its adherents.
The mere statement of these propositions is enough to carry conviction into the heart that they are the chief elements in the fundamental conception of all religion.
Now religion affects the individual in so far as it is a philosophy of life, looking more to the future than to the present. And as the individual is not alone in society, his Philosophy of life by that law of nature by which everything internal strives to find for it a place in the external, attracts groups of other individuals and religion gets socialized. To impress the heart and imagination and awaken men's memory, rites and sacraments get organized round it and thus what I have called the vesture of ceremonies is given to it. Thus organized and set up it becomes a considerable social force curbing the very individuals from whose internal nature it originated and demanding from them obedience and sacrifice like any other institution in the world.
This conceive as the essential feature of all religion. The philosophy of life itself might play but a minor part in it, as in the case of Zoroastrianianism; and in the philosophy there might be no provision for a god; for instance, Buddhism is Godless; but it is one of the greatest religions of the world. According to my conception, therefore, religion has a double aspect, its social and individual aspect and in studying it we must steadily fix our gaze on both. To use the term religion metaphorically to refer to individual conceptions alone, however impressive sometimes, does not seem to be quite legitimate. We can indeed say of any absorbing passion of a man as the religion of such and such. But this use of the term is clearly different from the common one.
Before we proceed further we have to say a few words as regards the present-day attacks of Science on Religion. Unless the ground is cleared by an open statement of the attacks and defense, there will always be in the mind some lingering doubts as to the absurdity or at least the inadequacy of what may be said subsequently. There is nothing like an unreserved statement of objections and even if some of them could not be answered, we might know, by having a clear notion of them how far the question will be affected by want of an adequate answer to them.
The first objection of Science is as regarding super natural existence. This objection was very strongly urged in the Eighteenth century. It took the form of objections to the miracle which formed and which still form so large a part of orthodox religion beliefs. Miracles were considered as interference with the law of the world and as such were discredited as impossible. They argued in the beginning that even on the hypothesis of a supreme supernatural Being that His continual interferences with the affairs of the world could not be reconciled with the Universality of the laws of the world; for with the lapse of time and development of Science, this conception of the Universality of Natural laws became firmer and with it belief in miracles, as miracles themselves, steadily declined. Then Scientists went to the length of denying the existence of a supernatural essence at all in life so that ultimate analysis hopes to account for all Vital and Spiritual activity from purely physical causes. In the middle of the present century the scientific world was thrown into a ferment by the unlooked for discoveries and developments in several departments of theoretical and applied science and the ardor of youth and pride of success gave them vast ambitions. They aspired to analyze and find out, as in a chemist's laboratory, the very essence of life and ultimately even create man as artificial rainbow is produced by an electric machine Mr. Shelly's Frankeinstien is only one of the pictures of the attempts that were made to realize this astounding ardor. But as Bacon would say a little deeper diving into the ocean of Knowledge has sobered men's imagination and calmed their hopes. Our Scientific Lions such as Spencer and Huxley have already sounded the retreat and science has not positively succeeded in showing that the supernatural is a hoax. The negative arguments are still no doubt urged. But negative arguments cannot carry conviction to impartial minds. Even these negative arguments are now losing favor in high quarters. The Society of Psychic Researchers in unearthing wonderful incidents concerning post mortal existence in the very face of scientists and by the application of their very methods of inquiry. Numerous mystic and occult societies, are started afresh and the religious and the philosophies of the world are ransacked for a comparative study. There seems to be even in scientific Europe a tendency to unsay what has been said or at least to put on a reserve in the attack of Religion. Therefore much of the antagonistic attitude of science to Religion is only a tradition now. But this change of front is not yet understood by the common people. The irreligious among them openly shout out this old out-of-date war-cry of science and claim for themselves the strength of reason. But they have to learn that science is no more their friend. The pioneers in the higher regions of science have shown that the supernatural itself is streaming out from the midst of the natural. The bridge that connects the natural and the super-natural is their consumption of energy. It is known that there are forms of energy whose effects are of everyday occurrence but which cannot be referred to any of the physical sources. The energy of will, the energy of intellect and the energy of life do not seem to depend upon any physical equivalents. In one man, expenditure of a certain quantity of food and physical stuff, produces a certain amount of vital, intellectual and spiritual energy: but the same in another produces altogether a different proportion of it. If the physical world be the source of all energy, we cannot understand the difference between one man and another. This of itself is enough to indicate the existence of super natural power. But there is even in the physical plane evidence of a very scientific nature for the existence of such a power. Prof. Tait, in his treatise on Matter which he has contributed to the international Scientific Series, has called attention to the disproportionate manifestation of energy in the atoms of bodies. If mere scientific causes have produced the world as it is, we must expect an adequacy between the results produced and the causes that go to produce them. For example, in making a mountain, only so much of cosmic force ought to have flowed as would have compassed that end and no more. But what we actually find is that there is such a waste of energy in Nature. Prof. Tait has calculated that in every unit of space there flows through incessantly an amount of energy enough to destroy, if given out, a vast country. He himself confesses that it is a wonder how this vast store of energy passes on without producing much haven. In the face of such a confession, is it really fantastic to say that in the Lord
is the stay of the world and if He but let's go His protecting hand for a moment, down, down will go the world and all its fair creatures will be crushed? Again the vortex theory of matter lends such a countenance to the old world symbolic representation of world's evolution and the serpent, as Theosophy has succeeded in showing, is only a symbol for the spiral motion of matter in its upward movement at the breath of primeval energy. Mrs. Annie Besant's Building of the Cosmos describes clearly the attitude of science as regards the highest cosmology of the ancient religions of the world such as these of Egypt and India. Thus on the score of supernatural existence or super natural interference, the old arguments of science betray a want of up to date knowledge. A second objection of science is however much more weighty. Granted that there is a supernatural power, what efficacy can there be in religion as an institute? The essential part of religion as an institute is ceremonies and ceremonies have reference to prayer. Can prayer have any efficacy in the face of the Universality of laws? As the skeptic doctor in one of Tennyson's late ballads has said can prayer set a broken leg, the supernatural power itself works by laws and what can prayer avail in the ignorance of the laws?
This objection seems to be unassailable. Many a religion which has held a pronounced opinion on this point, has to leave its ground in the face of this objection, perhaps Christianity is one of such religions. The Christians could not satisfactorily vindicate their prayers against such an attack. Even more like Ruskin, of whose orthodoxy nothing need be said, have had a fling at this. The Church's supreme regard for Psalm singing and prayer, they do not applaud. To beg for a favor when we can work for the possession of it is mean and noble souls despise it. Children must ask and get, but men must work and obtain. Higher religions have recognized this and according to them prayer takes a different form. It does not ask for blessings: it only praises and meditates. Even the repetition of a God's name a hundred times is less demoralizing than a whining prayer for giving this and that. God knows best what we want more than ourselves and to pester Him with petition for revising his judgment is to sit in judgment over the Judge Himself. Higher Religions have once for all recognized this and according to them prayers are the several stages for perfecting the spiritual side of man and nothing more. This weighty objection of science at best falls on only a few religious which are still in a tower stage. Indeed Christianity itself made an attempt to throw off this spirit which it has inherited from its Hebraic birth: but it has not been quite successful. The very Lord's Prayer does not satisfy the Soul. Perhaps from long habit it carries no mark of dissatisfaction in English. But when it is translated into Tamil, the suggestion of dignity is removed. So that it cannot express the aspiration of all men alike whatever their culture. As a set off against this I can refer to the Hindu Sahasra Nama, the thousand names of God. People who have no idea of them will imagine that the list is made up of some unmeaning proper names. But the truth is that every name sends forth a world of suggestions. Puranic, Physical, Psychic, that the names when read out stand for so many material, moral, mental and spiritual incidents. So that the mind is broadened, the soul is purged and the spirit is chastened and purified. Science can have no objection to such a prayer at all. For men, of course, in lower stages of culture, a coarse form of prayer is enough.
Again the very nature of scientific causation cannot throw light on the cause which religion contemplates. Scientific causation is either a statement of the law of equivalence, or of antecedence. The cause which religion contemplates is altogether of a different kind. It is of the same kind as Human will: As man's will can bring into existence things not already found, so there ought to be a cause, Religion says, whereby the very scientific laws are set to work. Mr. Crozier, in his admirable treatise on Civilization and progress has clearly shown that mere faith in scientific causation is not adequate to bring discredit on the ultimate cause according to Religion. He contends that even the universality of scientific laws themselves, is a metaphysical conception for which there is not enough of scientific certitude, but upon which scientific certitude depends Induction, the very instrument of science, rests its certitude on the firmer basis of Intuition. But for intuition, induction would only stop at the collection of materials: The guess or the flash that brings in the general conception from the particulars is of the Soul and therefore is metaphysical in its origin.
Compte has elaborately set forth indeed as theory of "The laws of wills and causes" and thereby he imagined out in a masterly analysis of the part played by the religions of the world that in the absence of right knowledge as to the causes of phenomena independent wills were conceived as causing them but, as knowledge advanced the independent wills assumed became fewer and fewer, till at last in the day of Positivism, he hoped no more room would be left for the hypothesis of wills as cause and therefore the deity would disappear from religion. His Historical illustrations give a coloring to the whole theory and the actual existence of Fetichism, Polytheism and Monotheism lent countenance to his prophesy as to the possibilities of positivism; but now as it is more than half-a-century since he enunciated his law and the positivist stage still lies as far off as ever, even though he hoped for its realization in a few years, we have to look upon his interpretation of the religions of the world with some diffidence. For it is easy to fit in the past to any theory sufficiently ingenious. Moreover we have already seen how the meaning of cause as used in science is different from that used in Religion. If Compte's arguments can prove that all phenomena of the world can be referred to their Scientific causes their cause in the metaphysical sense will still be unknown. And it is this Ultimatum in existence that the basis of Religion and science has not ousted it from its everlasting pedestal nor is it likely from a priori grounds ever to do it. So our inquiry into religion is not merely a bootless excursion into moonshine. It has a solid basis as solid as anything else and I hope we shall not be disturbed by lingering doubts as to the absolute reality of all this structure in the course of our subsequent inquiry by returning doubts concerning the security of the basis.
I hope we are now in a position to take the first step and work the birth of religion in man. A clear study of the early religions of the Jews, and the Hindus as they are set forth in their scriptures will show some aspects of religion at its birth. Godhead shrines into their mental ken as a tribal leader or king. In the Rigveda we learn that Indra was the God of the kausikas and Agni or Fire, of the kanwas and so forth. But soon by proximate living, the tribal or clannish stage gave place to the state and the deities were interchanged. For long the Hebrews remained with their vengeful and distinctive conception of a tribal deity. It is easy even there to trace the mollifying influence of Babylonic captivity upon their conception of God. The Hebrews and the Early Hindus alike approached the great supernatural power in the universe from fear, want or insecurity.
Though fear and want and chiefly trouble are ever a potent cause in bringing man to God, there are other mental attitudes also which bring man near him. Meditation – a thought is one of these. The reason why the old forms of religion are disliked now is because, from the security to life and property arising from improved civilization, the old forms of representing the relation between god and man cannot now be realized in the upper strata of society. The god of the past was the god of advin, the god of the poor in spirit and the god of those that increased Christianity especially taking its birth in the midst of the corruptions and varieties of decaying empire had its source in this attitude of human mind and its liturgy, however splendid as a figure of speech and sometimes to man in trouble even as a reality fails to rouse the cultural soul that sits comfortably in its achievements. Hence in these days we want a religion based upon meditation or thought and not on fear or want. This explains the craze there is in America and in England for the Advaita of Srimat Sankaracharya.
The characteristic feature of the religion of this origin is its out and out intellectuality and its philosophy.
Or again, man might approach the power underlying Nature by ennui. This is also a feeling for which old religions have not made a provision. The soul that revolts from satiety or that is afraid of acting from pity in fact possessing sentiments which are due to culture, require an antidote and God, the supernatural, serves as an antidote to this state of mind. The religion of the gita was preached to one in this state of mind. The curious identity of the present day mental attitude of the Europeans and that of the Hindus at the time of the war of the Pandus and the Kurus is seen in the delight with which the gita is drunk in by the western mind to which it can be made known.
Love or Reverence is another attitude of mind through which man starts up his religious cause. Many favorable circumstances went together for the production of this attitude of mind. Peace and plenty but such a kind as could only be won with labor and display of strength and goodness can produce this. The Norse religion seems to me to have had this origin.
Of these the first named motives fear and want are always potent ones. Therefore is it said "In the fear of the lord is wisdom." As even the most fortunate have their troubles, the religion whose foundation is fixed on the rock of security for man in troubles will always find its adherents. Successes and strength might discard Him for a while; but returning grief will bring in returning faith except in a few haughty Titanic souls who could have the internal strength bear the disruption of mind silently and boldly Religion will be hugged by the successful also if it is rested on culture or thought.
For after the immediate physical wants are satisfied, the mind of man is provoked into activity for its own sake and if religion cannot lay hold of this distinctive feature of man it cannot long exercise sway over him. If, however whatever thought might engage him, he could find that the stay of that thought is in god, then indeed religion would ever be a constant source of power for him. Individually after all Religion is nothing but the consciousness of the existence of a supreme power in the world before which the power of the individual is as nothing. The precise feeling with which this consciousness might be associated may be different in different minds. For instance, in some there might arise of a sense of selflessness or want of security without him; this feeling is born of intense personal weakness or, in others, the conception of this power associated with all the mighty and often times destructive forces of Nature, produces a feeling of terror which seeks for security by expiation and prayer: in other again, the feeling accompanying this consciousness is wonder and delight at the Being that is manifested in all this multitudinous array of mighty world and their interactions. Again some find nothing but one stream of Mercy flowing through the Evolution of this world which ever rises in the scale of happiness from the worm to the man. Thus according to the experience, inclination and culture of each soul, this supreme power that underlies nature is conceived and represented in various ways. Now however diversified human culture may be, there is essential unity of nature in all men and as the feelings by which the primary conception of God is modified are owned by all individuals, if not at the same time, at all events in different times in the course of their lives, the representation of the Deity so as to suit one mind may sometime or other find itself satisfactory to others also. If by a broad classification therefrom we can put minds into three kinds, Satvic, Rajasic and Thamasic, then it is possible to enunciate a single form of the relation between man and God so as to suit all the three stages of mind by progressive interpretation of the relation according to the progressive nature of the mind. This is what in fact Hinduism has done for the religion. Its religious conception with an apparent oneness of form unfolds deeper and deeper truths for minds of higher and higher culture.
For the Thamasic or dark soul whose characteristics according to the Gita are ignorance and fear there is the coarse materialistic conception of deity as a judge and a "punisher of crimes." The Horriblest Hells are shown to these in order to fasten on their mind the thought of the littleness of their strength before that of the lord. The Rajasic people whose proud souls compasses not earth or Heaven and whose ambition would take possession of all, can be refrained from ruining themselves and ruining all only, if by a slightly higher form, the same Almightiness of the ultimate power of the world is impressed on them. If not, in the language of the Gita, they will invest all thought with their pride and vileness. For,
Asuric men know not either action or inaction; neither purity of body nor purity of conduct nor is there truth in them. "The universe is without truth without moral basis" say they, "without a god brought about by mutual union and caused by wit and nothing else." Saying this, these uncured ruined men, of small intelligence, of fierce deeds, come forth as enemies for the destruction of the world surrendering themselves to insatiable desires possessed with hypocrisy, conceit and arrogance, holding evil ideas though evil delusion, they engage in action with impulse resolves. Giving themselves over to numberless plans, whose end is death, regarding as the highest the gratification of lusts, feeling sure that that is all, held in bondage by a hundred ties of expectation, given over to desire and anger, they strive to obtain by unlawful means hoards of wealth for sensual enjoyments. "This today by me hath been got, this desire I shall soon satisfy. The wealth is mine already, and also this shall be mine in future. I have slain this enemy, and others also I shall slay. I am a lord, I am the enjoyer, I am successful. I am powerful and happy, I am wealthy, well born what other is then that is like unto me? I will sacrifice. I will give alms, I will rejoice. Thus deluded by unwisdom, bewildered by numerous thoughts, enmeshed in the lock of delusion, attached by the gratification of desire, they fall downwards into a foul hell.
Miss. Annie Besant.
For such to tame their haughty spirit, the primary conception of God is interpreted as a Being of pitiless power strong enough to outwit them.
It was to such that Mahomed said "Ye plotters. God will outwit you all for God is the best of plotters." Whereas for the sastric minds an ethereal form of religion is wanted and the worth of the Hindu religion consists in the very adaptability of the common symbol of faith serving these also. The Durga, Natesa, the Siva on his Bull, the Ranganath sleeping on his serpent couch, the Lakshmi, budding out from the lotus, have a sublime meaning.
All these are symbols to carry a truth and the truth itself is taught in progressive and widening interpretation.
This naturally leads us on to the next point in our inquiry. How can the right interpretation of the symbols be known? For the consciousness of the power underlying the world can indeed come to us from nature but the real relation of that power to man cannot be so known. We may no doubt say that each man will conceive the relation in his own way but the conception based on ignorance and imperfect sense cannot render it as it ought. Moreover the intelligent, supreme power cannot be conceived to have left that relation to be guessed at by each man in his own way. For this purpose in every country and in every age the relation is revealed in fresh symbols or exposition of old symbols. It is for this reason that all religions are unanimous in declaring that the truth they teach are revealed to them by God. There is nothing strange in this. The very power that upholds the world, is as we have seen elsewhere, the God's own and it is not hard to conceive him manifest Himself anywhere at any time for the welfare of his creatures. Our very intention is the visit He pays to our heart. From ever being latent there He becomes patent and now and then the whole being of man is filled into the delight of this visitation. Our very Ananda or happiness is consonant glowing of spirit along the lines and groove of this body of ours. Its head is love, joy, right wing; delight, left; bliss is the self and it rests on Brahman, says the Upanishad. Everything great or good is so because it has more of the grace of God flowing through it.
Whatever is royal, good, prosperous and mighty understand thou that to go forth from my splender.
In fact it is the Tejas or the splendour of the Lord of all that makes the good in everything. Is it possible to conceive that such a God would allow men to grope in the dark? No, He maintains the world remaining in the heart of it and whenever His presence is wanted His mighty power makes itself felt in love or in chastisement. For says Lord Krishna in no faltering accent.
Whenever there is decay of Darma, 6 Bharata, and there is exaltation of Adharma, then I myself come forth; for the protection of the good, for the destruction of evil doers, for the finally establishing Dharma, I am born from age to age.
It is not for individuals so much as for the race the lord makes His incarnations. The individuals pursue their own course of birth according to the law of their own Karma. Their sufferings are of their own make as well as their joys and this only delights the Lord like the play of children. Yet even here his helping is not unseen. Even wicked He helps in their course; for He sendeth the rain to water the wicked man's crops as he does the good man's. But when wickedness is rampant and the weak and the poor are crushed by the strong, then His mercy cannot sleep. He puts forth his strength and lo' power, and wisdom stand forth to protect and bless the world. He cometh for placing on firm basis the law of the world Such a Revelation is not confined to one place or to one country. The lord hath spoken to every race according to its wants in its own language. Men who see this not vainly wrangle for triumph of their own forms and are intolerant to their own God in other's bodies.
Me, in other shapes besides their own they hating in envy.
Says the lord Krishna. To the truly religious toleration is as much a necessity as God. Forms are mere forms as long as they are not socially productive of evil, any form would do equally well for clothing Him and the best of forms are yet far from best to invest him.
Thus it can be perceived that Revelation has a twofold sense corresponding to the two fold attitudes of religion itself. With respect to religion considered in relation to the individual alone it is the intention that visits him in moments of supreme felicity and according to it each forms his own individual conception of his relation to the Almighty. In the other sense it is the record of the establishment of the law in each race and for each time by the successive incarnation of the lord or His Amsa. The History of the world is lit up everywhere by such God-sent lights which begin their glimness in various strata of society and gaining strength as they shine have succeeded in illuminating the hearts and the deeds of hosts of men then and there. The Great men, the truly Great men – of the world, the Heroes, as Carlyle would call them, are they whereof, my dear brethren, our own land has produced not a few. Rama and Krishna, Vyasa and Buddha, Sankara and Ramanuja, What are these but such beacons of the world to guide the Society to its goal of happiness and peace? Nor are other countries wanting in them. Jesus Christ is one of the greatest of such incarnation and perhaps He is the Kirke whom our own scriptures have prophesied.
But it may be objected that the books purporting to contain the Revelation often times err even as regards things of this world, how and how can they be trusted as regards things beyond this world.
It may be urged that the physiological and the psychological errors of the Quran, the Bible and the Upanishads have raised the mirth of many a sceptic. But a moment's thought would set this matter right. The incarnation of God means His taking of the flesh and the knowledge of the physical world shown can only be in consonance with the stage of culture of the society in which He takes the flesh. The Revelation is not made for the purpose of showing His glory: for that is shown forth in ever-streaming wonder by the very creations and their laws: but, it is to guide man by showing the relation between him and his God. The symbol for showing this relation is important and it is renewed – what the old Testament darkly talks as the covenant between the Lord and Man – and next to the symbol is the establishment of the moral laws. The ethics of reason which is based on social give and take, is far from enough for carrying on wholesome life; the ethics of sacrifice, of giving without taking, is fixed only by God in varying forms at each incarnation. The expression of all this law is couched in the then understood language of men, at the particular time and in the particular place. It is certainly unreasonable to expect in a moral code any exposition of the latest experiments of science; for if it contained such exposition, it would have been construed into ignorance of what is then known as knowledge. So the right key for understanding the scriptures of the world is not mere knowledge of facts and laws but spirit. The teaching is symbolic and the teacher must understand the symbols. That is why the teaching is always oral and esoteric. The widest publication of the texts of the scriptures can only bring discredit on the sacred words. For mere understanding will misunderstand them. It remains to be seen what good, for instance, the putting of the Bible into every Christian's hand has produced. For one thing it has dismembered God's Church to pieces and the sceptic laughs at their recriminations. The teaching in India has ever remained sane, on this point Guru to Sishya: from one to one: face to face with the multiplication of books, the living teacher is disappearing: and with him the living truth also. Therefore true Revelation is, as regards the individual, the intuition that visits his soul in moments when his being attains, at the spirit-touch as it were an integrity and strength which can brave and dare things before which reason recoils with cold calculation; and when, the individual is fired with it, his separate being is dissolved in forgetfulness and in the language of the Gita light shines forth in all his senses; the thought, word and act pour their energy in one consenting stream drowning all selfishness and fear, coldness and cowardice. Again, Revelation, as regards race or society, is that body of laws to teach in ever-varying symbols the existence and relation between the Intelligent power at the basis of all phenomena and the individual man of whatever natural quality – whether of satvic, rajasic, or tamasic disposition, and thence to establish a law for mutual relation among the individuals composing that race or society – not such a relation which mere self-interest will bring to pass and which is legitimately the subject matter of science and not Revelation – but the relation which is based on sacrifice or what I have elsewhere called the giving without taking. As Lord Jesus says "love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you." No sociology or political economy or political science which honestly confess that they are only based on enlightened self-interest, can teach it. If they cannot teach it, what is the source of our information of this doctrine? Is such a doctrine only a delusion of the mind and is the thrill we feel when we read of it or think of it and is the rapture we find when we hear of any man following it, all a hateful feeling fraught with evil to men and to society? If such sacrifice of the individual – if such law of charity be banished – where is sublimit in conduct to come from? Alas the purpose of racial Revelation is mistaken when people begin to criticise it from the point of view of human knowledge. When we are tempted to be over critical as regards such points we must only remember that the teaching is symbolic and seek a teacher who will explain the symbolism that is contained in it.
Let us hasten to close this necessarily imperfect inquiry. Let me end by succinctly putting together what the greatest sages have contributed towards the elucidation of this very obscure point. At the outset we have to say that the ultimate teaching of all religions is the same. But the very essential elements are set forth in a lucid way in the Srimat Bhagavatgita – the very philosophy as it were of all religions. All persons desirous of having a clear and definite knowledge of this must necessarily meditate on the sublime teachings of Sri Krishna. He taught them to Arjuna and through him to all the world – the one Revelation which by satisfying all requirements of thought and all desires of the heart has certainly all the outward marks of a Universal Revelation. Moreover it will be seen that it points out various ways for various Adhikaris – persons who approach the subject, in accordance with their manifold characteristics.
A description of the magnificence of the Gita and its teachings is not to be taken up at the fag end of a short paper which must not exceed a few pages. All I can do now is only to put together a few of the more salient points of the teaching in a form which can readily catch the discursive minds of these days.
Religion must be considered as a relation between God and man. God being the only God which is so in the beginning, middle and in the end, God alone must be the ultimate aim of all. But as His presence is forgotten or is not perceived by reason of what is called Ahankara, projection of the individual self upon all, which consists in taking the self as the centre and viewing all else from its point of view, He is abandoned for less worthy ends. Hence to realise His presence, this Ahankara must first be removed. It is done by binding the will of the individual; which binding consists in nothing but teaching obedience to the soul. Obedience must not be merely physical, due to the fear of a visible task-master who, as Carlyle would say, sits with the whip in his hand to enforce it. It must rather be ultra-physical, as obedience to a principle. This obedience to a principle can be learnt only when it is embodied in legal institutes which, in the earlier stages of society and therefore also in the earlier stages of individual culture, must be of a semi-religions character. So religion in its social side begins with ceremonies or as it is called Karma. This path of religion is called the Karma marga. At the first step the devotee takes the Karma to be quite essential for worship. He thinks God will be pleased only when it is done in the special way and takes to himself great airs that he is capable of doing it. Man in this stage while he recognises the existence of a controlling force without him besides his will, entertains a high opinion of his own will also. But by and by with Karma the senses get purified incessantly as they are employed not in pursuing what they like but in working for the end of things which do not refer to their immediate enjoyment. With the purification of the senses, the knowledge which the senses convey into the mind, becomes purified also and what is called gnana knowledge is reached. But though gnana is reached and the individual sees the relation between him and God in the right light, he cannot always free himself from the circumstances he finds himself surrounded by. Here with the dawn of Light there dawns within the mind sweetness also and pity born of mercy – a ray from the divine mercy whereof he becomes now conscious. Therefore the devotee cannot free himself from them with whom his life has been cast. He begins to guide them by his superior wisdom but does not attempt to draw them up against their will by forced means – first because, such means cannot really bring them up and secondly because they will disturb their balance of mind. His teaching is sympathetic by following whatever is good or indifferent in the methods, in vogue according to time and place and at the same time instructive by helping them to see according to their light the real relation of parts. He acts on the principle No disruption of mind must be caused to the less intelligent whose minds are essentially bound by actions and desires of actions. At this stage though he works he does so not for any benefit for himself. He has learnt to curb his desires and go without them. But he works according to established law in order to preserve the law itself which is the stay of the society of which he forms a part. For him life becomes a life of duties and not of rights. By the ordinary man it is conceived both as a life of duties and of rights. Certainly those that consider life as one of rights alone and of duties only in so far as what others could force out of them by the competition of pressing claims of their own, come far below. But let us leave them aside: for we have not to speak of them now. The gnani now lives the life of Jivanmukta and him action touches not as water does not wet a lotus leaf. Now if he finds even within this life the call to leave this existence in the midst of others, he goes out stirred by the divine visitation and by sacrificing the life he has been living, for a few, he soon gets into living the life for many and thus he becomes one of the Revealed Teachers of men. If such a visitation does not come to him, he dies, and his good Karma brings him again into some adequate life wherefrom he can pursue his ascent up. Thus the karmi begins at the lowest round of the ladder that reaches to the same height. Originally in fact all must have begun the ascent from the same level of Karma. But as, at any point of time, in the world there are put together souls in different degrees of culture and understanding according to the different number of births they have passed through, the different persons we meet with do not stand in the same level. We see in fact a multifarious scene, some ascending, some descending, some at the first round, some higher up. Hence it is absolutely impossible to have one spiritual law understood in the same sense for all. Therefore, some are seen to begin the spiritual advancement from the gnana stage. But the goal is the same and the passage also is the same.
After mental illumination is thus reached, some pursue their knowledge more and more with a devotion for light alone. Their intellectuality wakes up in them the last sparks of slumbering Ahankara which they had long ago quenched. So gnana marga sometimes leads men astray. The light that begins to dawn soon gives place to a lurid iridescence which is mistaken for clear light, as it is refracted by the new springing vapours of self. So to avoid this danger, knowledge is early associated with love and by the marriage of the Head and the Heart the devotee begins to see that above Knowledge itself, there is the subject of his Knowledge, wonderful and good and this consciousness of its wonder and goodness wakes up his emotional side; by this blended heat of intellect and emotion, the rising vapours of self-love are burnt up. There is the beginning of Bhakti. It is satisfied with the minimum amount of knowledge and attempts at reaching the goal by love and sympathy. This is a stage higher than that of gnana or knowledge. For if by knowledge alone we have to know the Great God, time itself will not be enough. For any amount of accumulation of finite knowledge cannot make it infinite so as to comprehend in it the highest God.
But Bhakti or love, though blind, is an intuitive and all-embracing feeling; its essence consists in absolute self-forgetfulness- the one state of mind more than any other that is acceptable to God.
As lord Krishna says "only those are acceptable to Him who love Him for himself and not from other motives." So that Bhakti is the state of mind in which a truly God-centered soul finds itself and it forms essentially its one business in the i.e., after the consummation of the heart's desire. It is the love that inflames and consumes the bride in the bride chamber when the Bride groom is near. At the same time it is also an or an means for the consummation of what is devoutly wished for. Love, aesthetic critics say, is twofold viz., that in the period of separation and in the period of union. Love as a means belongs to the former period and as an end to the latter. In our present state of existence we have to begin with love or Bhakti of the former kind and when the lord has accepted our heart – there will be room for love of the latter kind. But this wisdom – love is a gift of God Himself out of his free grace. மயர்வறமதிநலமருளினன் as St. Nammalwar has said. The feeling heart is a rare gift and to those that have not the purity and the unction of such a passion, there is a simpler way. It is Prapathi or faith. There is salvation by faith alone. If we make up our mind that all our means for reaching God are vile and nowhere when compared with His Excellence and grandeur and that we are vile and nobody before His August Presence, this utter helplessness otherwise – this personal nothingness of man, forms the right state of mind to approach Him with. Then the distant He becomes at once near and His free Grace descends engulfing all differences and fills everything. The common virtues and vices pose their hold on the mind. There is nothing for man either to desire or to shun. His vices themselves lose their ugliness for God when He makes up His mind to accept him. Neither birth, nor position; neither culture, nor association is wanted thereafter. God returns the love however inadequate might have been the answering love on the part of the chetana or the individual soul. This love envelops man and frees him from every foe that stands in his way of perfection. Who so is specially loved by God becomes at once by the magic of that love a perfect Being even as he is by nature, by the mere routing of the ills that have been investing him until then. This is what Christianity has called the vanquishing of Satan by the Christ in us, அவைதன்னடையேவிட்டுப்போம் as our Acharyas say. This is the surest way of winning salvation and the easiest in one sense. It is to teach this finally that lord Krishna began the long discourse of the Gita. After whetting Arjuna's appetite for this last word by various means and after exercising his mind upon the comparative worth of the other and lower but more elaborate ways, the lord discloses this as the final word to be said to the spiritual aspirant.
Now hear above all the last word – the highest word from me. It is the mystery of all mysteries. As I love you much I tell you this – the one thing beneficial to you.
With this preamble the lord taught Arjuna the final word of all religious philosophy, known as the charama sloka.
'Abandon every prescribed means even of righteousness and take refuge in Me and Me only: Then I will ease you from every ill! Sorrow not' In substance this is nothing but the last word which Jesus Christ brought to suffering men. "Come to me ye that are heavy-laden and I shall ease you." Thus after all there is only one Religion ultimately whereof every other is only an offshoot. It is only the as the lord says that separates – the letter of the law, in the language of the Bible. The letter killeth but the spirit saves. It is the letter that divides but the spirit unites. Let us then all unite in the fundamental spirit of true Religion and scatter the dividing letter to the wind. The only necessary preparation we have to make for receiving the higher life is the the abandoning of the letter of the law and taking refuge in God. How simple and homely is the call of Christ. "O come to me ye who are heavy laden" how very pathetic in its condescension! The very simplicity of the means seems to militate against its adequateness. The small mind of man which loves elaborateness cannot bring itself to believe that such a simple faith is enough. But God in his loving greatness would have no other as the final thing. All elaborateness must find its goal in this simplicity – elaborateness, until the soul is ripe for receiving this doctrine of sublime simplicity. This is the last word of Hindu Religion and it is also the last word of Christianity. What are apparently so different unite in this. Let therefore Hindus know that Christianity is nothing but Hinduism in a foreign garb; let Christians know that true Hinduism – the Hinduism of the Scriptures – is nothing but Christianity recognizing the Christ-spirit in the scheme of world's regeneration though not the Historical Christ. The East and the West thus meet. May they work without discord. May they understand each other better! May their mutual understanding tend to bring about the coming of the kingdom of Heaven on earth by teaching the world the surest means of slaying differences and may from the ashes of disunion arise the phoenix of God's church – one, invisible and catholic!
G. KASTURIRANGIENGAR, M.A.,