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Practical Religion

by Swami Sivananda

THE idea of death has ever been the strongest motive-power of religion and religious life. Man is afraid of death. Man does not want to die. He wants to live forever. This is the starting point of philosophy. Philosophy enquires and investigates. It boldly proclaims, O Man! do not be afraid of death. There is an immortal abode. That is Brahman. That is your own Atman, that dwells in the chambers of your heart. Purify your heart and meditate on this pure immortal, changeless Self. You will attain Immortality.

A clear understanding of man's relation to God is a matter of momentous importance to students of philosophy and all aspirants. Philosophers, prophets, saints, sages, thinkers, Acharyas, and great religious leaders of the world have tried to explain the relation of man to God and the universe. Various schools of philosophy and different kinds of religious beliefs have come into existence on account of various explanations given by different philosophers.

The three schools of metaphysical thoughts are dualism (Dvaita), qualified monism (Visishtadvaita) and monism (Advaita). They all are sages on the way to the ultimate Truth and Para Brahman. They are rungs in the ladder of Yoga. They are not at all contradictory. On the contrary they are complementary to one another. These stages are harmoniously arranged in a graded series of spiritual experiences. Dualism, qualified monism, pure monism - all these culminate eventually in the Advaita-Vedantic realisation of the Absolute or the transcendental Trigunatita Ananta Brahman.

Madhva said, Man is the servant of God and established his 'Dvaita' philosophy. Ramanuja said, Man is a ray or spark of God and established his 'Visishtadvaita' philosophy. Sankara said, Man is identical with Brahman or the eternal soul and established his 'Kevala Advaita' philosophy. People have different temperaments and different capacities. So different schools of philosophy are also necessary. The highest rung is 'Advaita' philosophy. A dualist or qualified monist eventually becomes a Kevala Advaitin.

The essence of all religions is the same. Only non-essentials differ. Real religion is above mind and senses. Real religion is above ceremonials and rituals. Real religion is eternal life in the immortal soul or Brahman. Philosophy is the rational aspect of religion and religion is the practical aspect of philosophy.

What is that by knowing which everything else will be known, what is that by attaining which there will be no hankering for any other thing and what is that realising which one becomes immortal, fearless, desireless and rests in everlasting peace and happiness? It is Brahman or Atman or the ultimate Truth which is the summum bonum of life. It is the Bhuma or the unconditioned. You can get real happiness only by attaining this Bhuma or the highest Self.

The Being who is described in the Upanishads is Brahman or Atman or the Self or the Absolute. He is the fountain-head of all scriptural knowledge. He is the source or womb for everything. He is Existence Absolute, Knowledge Absolute and Bliss Absolute. He is indivisible, all-pervading, self-contained, eternal and immortal. He is beyond time, space and causation. He is beginningless and endless. He is the indweller in all beings. He is the witness of the activities of all minds.

What on earth can cause fear in you when you have realised your identity with such an Atman? What on earth can generate hatred, delusion, difference and sorrow in you when you behold the one in all and all in one? What on earth can cause agitation in you when you have transcended the mind and rest peacefully in your own Sat-Chit-Ananda Svarupa - that magnanimous ocean of bliss and stupendous silence?

The questions: Who am I? What is this Samsara? Whence have I come? Whither will I go? What is the goal of life? What is Brahman or Atman? What is the relation between the individual soul and the Supreme Soul? How to attain the Goal? Can I become Immortal? Can I enjoy Eternal Bliss? will surely arise in the mind of every human being at one stage of his life or another.

He who thinks seriously over these questions and attempts in right earnest to reach the goal is a wise man but he who does not care to ponder over these vital questions, who leads a sensual life and who does not endeavour to attain the final beatitude of life, is a thoughtless man. He lives in vain. He is a burden on this earth. He is a slayer of his own Self. His life is indeed very pitiable.

You experience disharmony and discord when Rajas and Tamas prevail in the mind. Annihilate Tamas by increasing Rajas and destroy Rajas by increasing Sattva. There will be harmony and concord when Sattva prevails in the mind. Go beyond Sattva and hear the celestial music of the soulmusic that you never heard of before. It is the music of the meeting of the soul with soul. It is the wonderful music that transcends all Ragas and Raginis. It is the unstruck music of the Infinite - that celestial melody which thrills the hearts of the meditator, that celestial melody which helps the aspirant to merge himself in Brahman. It is the music of 'OM' or Pranava Dhvani. It is the transcendental Anahata sound. It is the divine music of Krishna's flute. It is silence itself. Its melody and sweetness are beyond description. Drown yourself in the bliss of this inner music. You should experience it yourself.

Live without the feeling of 'I-ness', 'mine-ness' and attachment. Restrain the senses. Observe the rules of right conduct. Cultivate purity of heart. Hear the Truth. Abide in the Self. Be happy.

Meditate always, I am pure consciousness. I am Sat-Chit-Ananda Brahman. I am immutable, self-effulgent, Immortal Self. I am the silent witness of the three states, viz., waking, dreaming and deep-sleep states. I am distinct from the five sheaths. You will attain Self-realisation soon. You will attain knowledge of the Self.

You are the real master or governor of the whole world. You are bound to none. Feel the majesty of your self. Whatever your circumstances and environments may be, keep peaceful and happy. Abandon all anxiety, fear and worry. Rest in your centre. Be self-poised, self-pleased and self-contained. Sing Om, chant Om and meditate on Om. Realise the Self. Know the Self and be free. Now the whole world will be a heaven or paradise to you. You are the Lord of lords, the God of all gods, the Emperor of emperors. You are in possession of the inexhaustible spiritual wealth. The sum-total of the pleasures of the whole world is a mere drop when compared to the bliss you enjoy now. You are the ocean of bliss now. What a magnanimous state! Even the thousand-tongued Adisesha cannot describe it.

Mere philosophical discussions and hearing of lectures will not produce much tangible results, soul awakening and inner spiritual illumination. Besides reading of papers on philosophy, in a philosophical congress or gathering, there should be practical Sadhana by way of common meditation at the end of every function or meeting. There should be discourses daily on meditation and its different aspects, control of mind, practical divine life, essentials of divine life, etc. This will certainly contribute to the happiness and peace of man and moulding of life. There should be common prayers for world peace. Common prayers and common meditation go on a long way in bringing about world peace. The delegates of a Conference should assemble at 4 a.m. (Brahmamuhurta) for common prayer and meditation. This time is best suited for meditation. When several people join together and practise common meditation, a huge spiritual current of Maha Sakti is generated. This purifies the hearts of the practitioners and elevates them to the sublime heights of spiritual ecstasy and Samadhi. Common Sadhana has this particular advantage. These magnanimous powerful vibrations are carried away to distant places and they bring elevation of mind, solace, and strength to all people and work as invisible harbingers of peace, harmony and concord. The powerful, soothing, beneficial vibrations will annihilate hostile forces and quickly bring peace and bliss to the whole world.

May you all live immersed in the ocean of bliss in an illumined state! May you all live in the spirit of Vedanta philosophy, recognising the divinity in man, seeing Brahman everywhere, sharing what you have - material and spiritual - with others and merging the mind in the supreme Tattva and attain Nirvikalpa Samadhi with Brahmakara Vritti as the main support and guide!

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