As we rush through life, our ‘me time’ gets relegated to the background. There is always a constant knocking at the door of our mind, coaxing us to open it. We are the champions of resistance and keep this mind closed with all our might. We may argue about our unconventional thinking and modernity of thoughts, but those are limited to the material life and hence, immaterial.
I am no scholar. Nor am I very ‘religious’. Even my neighbours’ cat might be more religious than I am. Without disregarding the importance of religious practices, I would treat spirituality as a separate entity. I am not saying that the two cannot be interlinked. However, both are independent, and each can sustain itself without the other. Let me take this discussion a little further.
There have been, and still are, many minds getting enlightened, as deemed fit, by the omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent Super-soul. The extent of knowledge and enlightenment that these spiritual beings are able to accomplish is unknown. We, usually, assume that each attains complete knowledge once His grace falls upon such devotees. However, if I were to take a cue from Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 7, verse 3 ‘Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth’, then we may safely infer that all His graces may not be equal. Just like learners of each passing batch may not all get equal grades, it would be fair to say that all wise men may have attained His grace and spark in varying degrees. This does not imply that those spiritual people are not comparable to each other. Remember, continued devotion and desire to know Him will get us closer to Him.
These enlightened people take up the task of guiding the lost beings, like us, towards Him. They show the people a discipline and way to remember Him as per the Vedas, scriptures, and/or personal experiences. These experiences and teachings, over a period, become a practice, and then a religion. The practices, the reason and intent behind those practices, and the actual teachings may be distorted, or even lost, with time. The followers of the guru, the faith, or the religion do not, as a rule, test the teachings and their meanings rigorously and consistently. Hence, we end up being a part of stagnating norms, practices, and society. The fault does not lie with the teachings of the guru. Neither does it lie with the religion. The fault lies with the proponents of the religion, as they are entrusted with the task of carrying forward the practices with honesty and integrity. Either they bungle-up for material or personal gains, or they forget the main foundation for religious system – enlightenment and salvation. I would like to add another verse from Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 4, “This deathless Yoga, this deep union, I taught Vivaswana, the Lord of Light; Vivaswana to Manu gave it; he To Ikshwaku; so passed it down the line of all My royal Rishis. Then, with years, the truth grew dim and perished, noble Prince!”
Let me take an analogy. When we started working on computers, we started with Disk Operating System (DOS). With each advancements and increase in knowledge, we moved to better user interfaces. Windows, as an operating system, has been around for decades. Nonetheless, we never stopped experimenting. The laws of Physics have not changed, but we are focusing more on their application. This can be the ground for invention, growth, and advancement. We have better versions of Windows, and many more competing operating systems like Android and iOS etc., catering to differing needs of our various electronic devices. When we are frequently dissatisfied with perfectly working technologies and constantly endeavour to enhance it, then what is stopping us from refining and re-defining our religious practices?
Spirituality is the foundation of religion. It is the inherent need of a person to transcend to another plane, to attain Him, which drives them to the path of spirituality. You may ask that how then, spirituality and religion remain separate entities. The established religions of the world, and the new ones cropping up each day, though founded on spirituality, no longer require it for sustenance. The established, documented practices and the diktats of the religious leaders are enough to keep it operative. At best, religious faith would help the followers feel good about themselves, and may get some material results. The main objective – finding Him, understanding Him, and attaining Him – loses its importance in these religions or practices. Spirituality does not require religion. A discipline, a right path for treading, and practices as per the scriptures are essential, but can be followed without the constraints of a religion. Here, I am not equating religion with ‘dharma’ as spoken by Lord Sri Krishna in Gita.
Am I anti religion? Am I propagating atheism? Definitely not! I am a believer and a follower. All I am establishing is that we should know our goal; understand where we are headed, and then define our course. Entire humanity is not devoted to Him and everyone neither believes, nor works towards achieving the Ultimate. People have their specific goals. Chart your path accordingly. Both, religion and spirituality have their pre-defined outcomes. Sometimes the paths might cross. More often, it is best to decide our expectations and then choose wisely. ‘Gyan’ or knowledge is the most important ingredient in appreciating either. Once we establish our needs, we should follow the chosen path relentlessly and unabashedly.
In my conversations with various people from different spectrum of life, I have come across some frequently asked questions. More often than not, the doubting souls or the uninitiated believe that God is partial or unjust. These are the times when I prefer atheists or agnostic. At least, they only blame people or self for the events and shortcomings in their lives. Addressing the questioning believers, let me ask if you equate God with your boss? Even parents can be unjust or unloving at times and that is a human failing. However, comparing God with humans would be an error. Believing that God could have such failings too would be being dense. Thinking that God plays favourites would be the biggest folly that believers can commit. God is above the material or human nature and cannot be measured with any yardstick. Let me quote Gita Chapter 7 verse 12, “All states of being–be they of goodness, passion, or ignorance–are manifested by My energy. I am, in one sense, everything–but I am independent. I am not under the modes of this material nature.”
There are three types of people when it comes to God and beliefs. One can be a believer, an agnostic, or an atheist. However, there is no mid-way and you cannot be conditional believers. Either believe unflinchingly, or refute His existence with all the information and force that you can gather. However, you cannot believe half-heartedly and then blame Him for your misfortunes. You reap what you sow and it is not a cliché. In addition, all of you, who do not believe in His existence, hey! Stop criticizing Him, because you cannot criticize something that does not exists.
Let me pick up a couple of more verses from Bhagavad Gita. In Chapter 12 verse 20, God says, “He who follows this imperishable path of devotional service and who completely engages himself with faith, making Me the supreme goal, is very, very dear to Me.” God repeats lesson on a devotees allegiance to Him in Chapter 10 verse 9 – “The thoughts of My pure devotees dwell in Me, their lives are surrendered to Me, and they derive great satisfaction and bliss enlightening one another and conversing about Me.”
I remember a friend’s comment on Arjun. This friend felt that he had nothing to his credit to be a favourite. What did Arjun do to become deserving? I wish I had a suitable answer to this. Can we see behind us without turning? Do we know what is happening just a couple of steps away? Do we completely know our children and their capabilities? How can we claim to be an authority on someone’s capabilities and deservedness? If God chose Arjun, then it was for his complete devotion to God and his steadfast faith in Him. Arjun was the deserving disciple and I say so because Krsna thought so. I will never question Him. Let me relate the same through the verse from Gita, Chapter 9 verse 29. “I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him.” Remember, only Arjun could completely understand the profound meaning of the conversation between Krsna and him. This is because of Krsna’s graces for Arjun. The entire world has been trying to unravel the complete import of this conversation for centuries and eras, and yet, without His grace the text just remains a translation from Sanskrit to the local language. Nevertheless, understand that God’s devotee never perishes. Quoting Chapter 9 verse 31, “O son of Kunti, declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes.”
For me the most disturbing trend is, believing that the god-men or people posing as God’s men are God incarnate. People are worshipping certain gurus and forgetting God. Then, without His grace, it is difficult to know Him. Rest of the world is just an abyss and there is only one light. Recognizing that shining light and reaching for it with everything that you have is the only way to attain Him. It may not be the main purpose of each life. We all are governed by our desires and lust for material things. These are the impediments to the spiritual awareness and there is not much that can be done without a concerted effort to break free from this abyss. Personal endeavor, a thirst for Him, and His grace alone can help.
There might be more discussions and posts in the days to come, discussing various aspects of life and being. That is all for now.
||Sarvam Sri Krishna Arpanamastu||