The whole reaction of the whole man to the whole universe is religion. It would also follow from this observation that religion includes the whole of life, and not merely a segment of life. Religion is generally not associated with the whole of one's life; it is kept in the pockets and pulled out only when one enters a temple, goes to a church, or sits before a holy man. Religion is a sacrifice. It is a dedication of self. Religion is not exhausted in an offering of some object to a conceptual God. Religion is something that consists purely in experience, and hence it cannot be explained in empirical terms. Religion is the highest experience possible in man, the plumbing into the depths of one's own soul, in which act one comes in contact with the very essence of the cosmos. The progression of the religious consciousness from level to level is an ascent of wholes. Whenever one feels like contemplating a religious objective in meditations or in prayer, one has first of all to be assured in one's own self that the whole self is there ready to encounter all reality.
When one enters the religious consciousness, in any degree whatever, one gets transported totally. The soul is in a state of rapture. One is then in a large sea of delight, because the whole that is above is trying to pull one out from the lower levels in which one is encased. It is as if the pith of one's individuality is being drawn out of its shell. Religion, when it takes possession of man, pulls him wholly from his partial entanglements in the titbits of the world of mind and sense. He is dragged out of the mire, when the religious consciousness inundates him.
All the aspects of life, which are the concerns of man, should be regarded as needs to be transformed into the religious endeavour. Whatever be man's occupation in life, that has to become his religion--that has to become a way to God. Religion is the whole of life. It is an inward attunement of oneself with the cosmic requirement. The inwardness, being constituted of the different layers of personality, has to be taken into consideration in all its degrees when one lives a religious life. Charity does not mean only parting with a few dollars or pounds. Charity is an attitude of mind. It may be expressed in the form of physical action or it may not be so expressed. It includes charitable feelings, a charitable attitude, conduct and behaviour towards others.
We perform charity not because we are rich and others are poor. Rather, the others are equally important and they have as much right to exist as we ourselves have. The ability of seeing God in all things is most important, and a mind thus purified becomes fit for the worship of God. An impure mind cannot adore God. Therefore, Karma Yoga, or selfless service, becomes necessary to purify the mind and make it fit for worship of God.
What is the deeper import of ahimsa (non-injury)? One has to be a friend of all. When someone who is a friend of all is intent on the welfare of all beings, he can hurt nobody. There is sacredness and sanctity present everywhere, and reverence for life is the insignia of true culture. Truthfulness is very simple and very easy to understand, because untruth is nothing but exploitation. One would not utter a lie, unless one wishes to exploit somebody. Brahmacharya is a gradual adjustment of the powers of one's personality towards larger and larger dimensions of impersonality, because the Absolute is the Supreme Impersonality. Brahmacharya means abstaining in the presence of interests other than the interest in Yoga. The distracting object may be anything. If we have got a strong interest in something that distracts our attention, the energy goes. Any kind of leakage of energy in any direction caused by event or context is a break in brahmacharya.
If there be anyone who has a little bit of honest devotion directed to God-realisation, and the practice of Yoga in its essentiality, surely he is treading the path of truth, and therefore, he is bound to succeed to that extent. Svadhyaya (study) is not going to a library and reading anything that is there. It is sacred study, a study of one's own self, or rather a study of anything that is connected with the nature of one's own self. Prayer works miracles and wonders; an attitude of humility on our side will be a great asset to us. By the sincere prayers that we offer to God, we invoke His benedictions, and God's actions are instantaneous. He will do the sadhana (spiritual practice) for us. The spirit within us, which seeks to overcome itself in a larger communion, is the spirit of religion.
One becomes a really religious person when one begins to see the same God in all the forms, not merely in one form. We have a piety inside our room, and a different religion altogether when we walk on the road or purchase a packet of biscuits in the shop, or travel in the bus or train. If our confrontation with life in these various aspects in which we are unwittingly and necessarily involved can be charged with the spirit of religion, we can be said to be truly religious, and God will help us everywhere. Religion does not become religion and the spiritual does not become spirituality unless our outlook in respect of the whole of life gets tuned up to the demands of the nature of God and the internal relationship that subsists among God, world and soul. An emotional stirring up of oneself into the enthusiasm of love of God, due to the study of scriptures or mystical texts, or listening to the sermon of a master, cannot be regarded as a reliable support for all time to come. There must be a conviction that must go deep into the heart.
"I have no duty." This would be a fallacious argument, because here we are trying to inject a metaphysical level into a social atmosphere, which should not be done as long as one is obviously aware of the fact that the social atmosphere is a reality. Anything that you recognise as a reality cannot be ignored when any argument is put forth. We cannot expect facilities from society and then feel that we have no obligations in return. There is a duty of everyone in respect of the atmosphere in which one is placed. This is called the dharma of the individual in respect of society. In the advance of consciousness through the process of its evolution we will find that there is an ascending degree of the concept of unselfishness.
Desire is our bondage-action is not the bondage. Any desire-filled action is binding; desire-less action is free. Whenever the mind fixes its attention on something other than itself, which is supposed to be wider in its comprehension than the contemplating mind or the self, that process is to be regarded as a sacrifice. We have to be one hundred percent convinced that moksha (liberation) is the goal of life, the liberation of the spirit is the aim of all our activities, all our studies, all our engagements, anything that we do, in any manner. Even the entertainment of the notion of the Absolute is a grand achievement. A whole-souled aspiration for God even in its initial stage is superior to all verbal knowledge, intellectual acumen, or scriptural learning. The greatest devotee of God is he who asks for nothing from God; not even knowledge, not even enlightenment, not even freedom from suffering. The highest devotion asks for God alone, and not anything through God or from God.
Love Him wholeheartedly from the bottom of your heart. Let your daily routine be infused with divine devotion. Work as an instrument in the hands of God and never forget for a moment the presence of this Supreme Parent. We should live in such a way that neither should we shrink away from anything, nor should others shrink away from us. The food that we eat, the way in which we speak, the kind of relationship that we maintain with others, the religious practices in which we engage ourselves, are all rooted in and defined by the belief or faith that we have as a philosophy of our lives. We should be able to connect every little thing in the world with that ultimate purpose of the liberation of the soul. Our duty therefore is to surrender our individuality to that All-Being, which we call the Almighty. Our blessedness lies here.
The actions of a jivanmukta are not individual, but universal movements. He does not think as I think or you think. His is a thought that includes every thought. He has no awareness of a particular encasement in some individual body. The moment one becomes conscious of the goal of one's life, then it is necessary to see that one's every activity is somehow or other reconciled with this goal. One should not do any incompatible thing against one's own conscience and against the purpose that one has on hand. Thus it is that it is necessary to have one's entire life transformed into a spiritual art through complete dedication. Tell yourself again and again by bringing before you mind the experiences that ancient sages and saints also have passed through. They had the same difficulty. They were the same small people as any one of us is; they became big because of the understanding they exercised and the success they achieved in the restraint of the sense organs. Swami Sivananda was a great embodiment of the inclusiveness of the powers of nature and of people in one single individual. He was a lover of God, he was a lover of human beings and he was a lover of nature. A householder is not a person doing many things, but thinking in many ways. The entanglement is not necessarily physical, but mostly psychological. You should do your duty to take care of your family, but don't be attached to the family.
Sometimes a stupid idea arises in the mind of people: "What is the good of my going to moksha when others are all suffering here? Let me wait until others also go." They are there and are as important as our brothers in the dream process. The whole thing ascends, a single sea of being. Can you live alone? Being literally alone is very difficult to conceive, but it is necessary to "pass the test." The social part of your personality will revolt against the individual life that you are forcing into yourself. Most of us are in a social atmosphere, and if you are out of that social condition and living completely alone, you may feel miserable at that time. Daily sacred study, daily recitation of the divine name, chanting the name of God, or the mantra, resorting to the guru, attending satsang (holy company) of saints and sages, being with them, listening to their discourses-all these will produce a cumulative effect of strength and security in your mind so that the problems mentioned will gradually diminish in their intensity and fade out completely later on. Even higher than worship with an offering like a leaf or flower, is the worship through the Name of God. Taking on the Name of God does not require even the little drop of water or milk, a flower or honey. Here, the mind itself is the apparatus or the instrument of worship, and the thing that is offered at the lotus feet of the Lord is also the mind. The greatest devotion is revealed in acts of mental worship.
"Die to live," is the burden of one of the songs of His Holiness Sri Swami Sivananda Maharaj. Unless you die to the self, you cannot live the life eternal. Unless you be reborn and be as children, you cannot enter the gates of heaven, said the Christ.