“No one can worship God or love his neighbour on an empty stomach”- Woodrow Wilson
Man is a mortal being. Like other creatures, he too needs food and other amenities of life to sustain his existence. But he is human. He is much more than the mere elemental body. The heaps of written, painted or spoken records are a proof of his uniqueness in the cosmos. His scriptures are not just accidents. They contain his wisdom of ages and give him strength to survive through thick and thin. Whether God exists or not is a question that was answered long ago.
Once in a German concentration camp, a large number of Jews were interned. There were judges, lawyers, professors, engineers and other intellectuals besides common men, women and children. All of them were given untold sufferings and pain through constant torture. Thumbscrews were applied to crush their nails. Women were raped. People were maimed by amputating their limbs. These constant sufferings were too much to bear. Their belief in the existence of God was shaken. They also felt that if He existed, He couldn’t be merciful. They decided to put God on a legal trial. They made it as close to reality as their situation allowed. The senior most judge was asked to preside. Lawyers were named for and against God. There were arguments on both sides. The trial lasted three days. By the end, they were all mentally and physically exhausted. Then the judge delivered the judgment. He said it couldn’t be proved that God existed. All were thoroughly drained of all energy and sat down disheartened and sad. After about half an hour the judge said, “Alright, get up. Come on, let us pray.” All got up and started praying.
All of us tend to and function within only that sphere of worldly knowledge, which we are familiar with. We consider our imperfect and often lopsided knowledge to be of universal application in finding answers to all possible questions concerning conceivable subjects in the world. This is as fallacious as to say - flies have wings. Birds have wings. So flies are birds or birds are flies. We know that only a trained engineer can certify how long a bridge would last and not a doctor of medicine. A lawyer and not his father can give legally valid opinion. But strangely enough even though we have had no training in spirituality, possess no diploma or degree in it, we don’t hesitate in making pronouncements against the validity of the notion of the existence of God. Because of our egoistical mind we refuse to consider the possibility that our notions and convictions can be wrong and that others too have a chance to be right.
There are people who argue that a moral life is all that matters and spirituality is just another name of morality. But morality is a relative term. Morality and spirituality may touch each other now and then, but they are on no account identical. In strictly moral terms, even Hitler and Mussolini’s action can be justified. Morality can justify a lavish life style of a millionaire – ‘as he earns his money, he has a right to spend it in the way he likes’. But spirituality applies the same yardstick to all. Moral enquiries leave many question marks. I do not think there can be an absolute and universal morality applicable to all men all the times and everywhere. But spirituality can.
For those who refuse to accept the possibility of some kind of existence before birth and after death, spirituality wouldn’t exist. But the number of such persons is insignificantly small. Barring these people, the entire humanity is spiritual whether one is a Christian, a Muslim, or a Hindu. The so-called intellectuals constitute a major part of those who refuse to accept spirituality. “I have measured my life with coffee spoons,” says Alfred Prufrock, the protagonist in TS Eliot’s poem of the same title. The coffee spoon life is nothing but mindless chopping away of invaluable human existence granted to us by the Supreme Power - for He must exist, otherwise we condemn ourselves and this beautiful Universe to a mere accident. But we have intellectual arrogance. Most of us seem to have bidden good-bye to humility. Only occasional calamities that overtake us work as shock therapy and put a bit of sense in our otherwise senseless existence.
Who among us can ward off misfortunes, illness, accidents, calamities, deaths, and failures and so on, for the list is very long? Man certainly has limitations. If he were the doer of everything, why can’t he control fate and chance? What after the best available medical help has failed in saving a patient whose life is ticking away? During such critical moments, the stark futility and irrelevance of our mere intellectual existence is brought home to us and we tend to pause and reconsider its validity. Only then do we introspect. When we are suffering and have nothing to lean on, if we don’t have God and spirituality by our side, the suffering is enhanced and frail as we are, whether we admit it or not, we break down. It is only then that we, as intellectuals, are frightened out of our wits. But a Bhishma, a Paramhansa or a Gandhi is not afraid of any such thing. Only Jesus Christ could say, “Oh God, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing,” and ‘they’ certainly don’t know.
The world was not made for Hitlers and Mussolinis. They were accidents and freaks, if what the humanity at large says is to be believed. But Tagore, Gandhi, Vivekananda, Swami Ram Tirath, Aurobindo, Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Guru Nanak, Swami Dayanand and numerous others were born for humanity. They didn’t need to stage route marches through the streets of towns to overawe peaceful citizens as Hitler did through the streets of Berlin. They had no ambition, no desire for anything material. Their only objective was to do good to humanity. They wanted nothing for themselves. But then we are or have been made to be slaves to materialistic considerations. The pace of life has quickened to such a degree that only the final collapse can stop us. Animal instincts reign supreme. In Western countries, hold ups are staged and murders committed by kids within 7 to 12 year age group. Boys of 8 and 9 years rape a girl of 11 years of age. Student indiscipline is a universal problem. Corruption is rife everywhere. There is dishonesty in the performance of one’s duty whether as a student, a teacher, a businessman, or a politician. Nothing seems to matter except keeping the perishable body, a bundle of flesh and bone, intact. Propped up above all is the capital ‘I’, the ego.
Now let us consider for a moment what the validity of our rationalistic ideas is and how very original our ideas are. Animals aren’t equipped to trasfer their experiences to their offspring, if there are any experiences worth the name. Only man can do so. Naturally by the time we grow up, we have borrowed the majority of our ideas, habits and behavior patterns from the society around us, as it constitutes the environment. There is very little original contribution and addition to what we learn and borrow from the society. Hippies used to take drugs with a view to snatch sometime to be free from these borrowed ideas or let us say to shed these ideas. They believed that under the influence of drugs they could feel original and think originally. Though it is anybody’s guess how a drugged mind can have original ideas. But the case of hippies does point to the fact of our borrowed intellectual inheritance. The situation points to the need of a healthy or desirable environment. Naturally this differs to some extent from family to family, community to community and society to society. There is no pollution free environment except the spiritual environment.
Aadi Shankara’s adwaitwad (dualism) is that Braham or Greater Soul is immanent. All of us have a spark of it in us. Again, the body is just the five elements mixed together in different proportions in each human body. They are fire, water, air, sky and earth. Hence the spirit is the same and only the spiritual aspect alone can be pure and universal. The body ages and dies. The five elements go to their origin and the soul goes to the Supreme Soul, the Braham. The Geeta answers all the questions on the subject if one is a true seeker of wisdom.
The question then arises whether it is practicable or possible for humanity at large to be spiritual. Yes, it is. Even if we can’t realise the truth of our divine origin, we can certainly live spiritually and make a beginning right now. The worst enemy to spiritual life is the ego, the capital ‘I’ that becomes a cross when crossed. The crucifixion of the Christ was the killing of the ego. We take great pains to sustain and maintain our ego and in the process not only do we hurt ourselves but also do a great harm to all around us. We seldom know and taste true peace. Hypertension and deaths due to heart attack have the ego behind them. The sense of competition and the ambition to excel speed the pace of life to dangerous limits. Then we are always tense and alert lest somebody should hurt our ego. We become intolerant and touchy in our outlook and behaviour. But the moment we ignore the ego, we feel spontaneous relief and it increases as we make progress in our efforts. Once the ego starts vacating our beings, love and sacrifice step in.
Selfishness, jealousy, anger, hatred become irrelevant and have to go out with the ego. More and more peace is experienced. Fellow feeling, helpfulness to other begins to interest us. We realise our faults and pettiness and begin to rise above them. Fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man becomes meaningful. We begin to accommodate others’ weakness, realising that we ourselves suffer from numerous weaknesses. Ill humor disappears. Smiles spread, genuine ones, not hypocritical. The environment begins to get purified. Tension is lessened. There is newness and freshness, which was always around us but was never experienced.
Happiness, peace and joy spring forth. We find a new source of energy, which enables us to stand to misfortunes and problems with fortitude and equanimity of mind, for we begin to realise that they are a part in the game of life. Desires begin to get limited and satisfaction comes in. Then a time comes when we acknowledge His presence in and around us. We begin to understand how rewarding our prayers are. He answers them minute-by-minute. From animalism we move to divinity, spirituality, to being fully human beings, fearless, courageous, in complete harmony with all and everything, to having peace like in a ripple less ocean. Therefore, let us start the day with love, fill the day with love and end the day with love. Amen.
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