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Why This Running After the Shadow

by Swami Sivananda

ome people say: We should direct all our energies in gaining political freedom and economic betterment of the masses. If we do not waste time and energy in propagating spiritual ideas, Gita studies and Sankirtans, and devote that energy to the above ends, then we shall get freedom and economic betterment earlier, after which those who wish can pursue philosophy and religion.

How can the masses and the middle classes who have nothing to eat assimilate these teachings before their physical needs are satisfied?

It is too much stress on spiritual life that has brought our downfall and slavery. Hence we are still a poor and a backward people. We have neglected material progress in the past, hence others overpowered us. We should therefore develop our material and physical powers and get to the same peak of progress, power and comfort as the Western nations, before we can dabble in philosophy and the like.

No nation, in the history of the world, has gained freedom or economic welfare by study of scriptures and leading a divine life, or by Bhajan and Sankirtan.

We must have a balance between spiritual and material life. by stressing the spiritual aspect too much, we have reached this stage. Hence it should be relaxed and the need for material and industrial progress should be emphasised as far as the Indian youths are concerned.

These people have no religious inclination. They have no knowledge of higher, transcendental matters. They have a gross and a limited vision. Even after political freedom is attained, they will continue to remain in that same condition, and argue in the same manner. They have neither religious Samskaras nor piety. They are a sort of destructive critics of the type mentioned in the Gita Chapter XVI.

Two types of workers, social and religious, are necessary in this world. Social workers will work in their own fields of activity. Religious workers will carry on special propaganda and dissemination of Knowledge. A carpenter has his own field of work and an electrician has his own field. You cannot ask a carpenter to do the work of an electrician and the electrician to do the work of a carpenter. Social, economical, political and industrial development and constructive work in this direction are very necessary. These should not be ignored.

But religion only can save people. Without religion man is nowhere. Even those who work in the political and other fields cannot turn out good work without disciplining themselves, without having a spiritual basis, without under- going a religious training, without practising Ahimsa, Satyam and Brahmacharya. Leaders, who are selfish and corrupt spoil the society. They fight for their own superiority and power.

Political freedom cannot root out the miseries of the world. You can have a little more comfort through political freedom. Bread, butter, jam and nice biscuits cannot give you everlasting peace. Comforts are enemies of spiritual life and peace. They pull a man down. After all, man wants very little on this earth. You will think of God only when you are in adversities. What is wanted is spiritual wealth which is inexhaustible.

That work which removes ignorance of man and gives him happiness can eradicate human sufferings in toto and give him eternal happiness. That work is spiritual propaganda. That work is the dissemination of Bhakti and knowledge of Yoga and Vedanta. It is the crowning glory of human activities. This is the greatest Yajna or Yoga. This is the Jnana Yajna, the highest of all Yajnas.

India alone possesses the supreme divine wealth. Even the richest people of the different parts of the world come to Himalayas to practise Yoga, to seek the guidance of Rishis, Seers, Yogis and Sages and to acquire this imperishable wealth.

No one can rob India of this wealth. India is ever rich and will be ever so both materially and spiritually. Her resources are vast and limitless. She was invaded and plundered by several people and yet her resources are abundant. She is ever free and will be ever free. Her culture and civilisation rank foremost in the whole world.

Happiness does not come from wealth. The Western nations are quite restless despite their enormous wealth. From this we can infer that spiritual life alone can give real, everlasting peace and happiness.

It is very difficult to convince these people as their minds are filled with wrong Samskaras. The fight between political and spiritual propagandists, between dualists and non-dualists, between Sannyasins and householders as to which is better is going on from beginningless time. Those who work in the religious field should not enter into discussion with these people. It is only wasting of time and energy. They should go on with their work with unabated vigour.

May true discrimination and light dawn on those people who are too much attracted to this world and politics, who have ignored the spiritual side of life altogether, who are thinking too much of body and its comforts, who have forgotten all about their essential divine nature, who are running after the shadow and who have disregarded the priceless Atmic Jewel that is hidden in their hearts!

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