The Mother Divine
Change Font Size 

“Why do the so-called religious people come across as conceited, arrogant, cocky, stuck up and condescending?” This is a question oft asked by those who stand at the brink of theism, unsure whether they should even consider becoming religious in the traditional way. Many of these sceptics are young; adolescents and teenagers. They are full of promise and it’s a pity if they are lost to religion. It may be argued that they have their own ideas of ethical and moral behaviour – of what is human and what is less human, what is socially conducive and what is socially counter-productive. After all, one does not need to be religious or spiritual to understand what it is to be a good human being. All the atheists reckon this far too well. They expect from the religious folks some evolution, some enlightenment which must come from the sublime practice. However, the generosity, liberality, rationality and receptivity that they expect from the religious people they come in contact with, such as their parents, aunts and uncles etc., is not encountered by them. In short, they are disappointed.

‘He prays so much but he is so selfish?’ Or ‘she prays day and night but cannot see what people around her need.’ And so on. Their argument is indeed fair.

Of course, the religious elders of our society are full of protest about the absence of religious interest in the young and old alike; they are even bitter about the absence of fear of God, total dismissal of religious traditions and domestic conduct on the part of the young, their impiety and heretical ways.

Who is to blame?

Well, the religious person or the spiritual person has the greater responsibility. It is their duty to make themselves both wise and likeable, sage and amicable, for if they are simply wise and come across as loathsome, the wisdom is coloured by the loath. The best of the wines when served in a disagreeable glass, may be furiously dismissed. So, it must be with spirituality! The container matters, the outward conduct of the religious or spiritual person definitely matters a great deal.

The religious person argues that what he or she is doing is too sublime to be understood. Prayer and meditation are an inner reality, and it cannot be subjected to a scrutiny by external factors – the mundane codes of domestic and social life. This is fair too, but not entirely true.

Many religious or spiritual people restrict their spirituality to the inward journey. They have a significant disregard for the so-called good human activities such as charity, social work, love and kindness towards people around them and so on. These, some of the religious or the spiritual bunch as ‘worldly’ things. They say that God is one thing and this world another. But herein lies a great debacle of the spiritual person. Because God resides in this world as much as He resides in the ‘other world’.

The sublime meditation may take the person closer to the God in the ‘other world’ or simply a God who is beyond or transcendent, but he or she will miss God who is posited in ‘this world’. The sceptic is evaluating the religious person by where he or she stands in ‘this world’ in terms of virtue or goodness. Because that is what the atheist and the agnostic know – this world! Unless the religious person passes the test of being virtuous or good in ‘this world’, the sceptic will not be open to appreciating the most magnificent and subtle adventures of the spiritual people.

Rigveda describes God as tripaad urdhva udaita purushah – He has three parts concealed and one part revealed. Three-fourth of the God principle is thus transcendent, beyond the world. Only one-fourth of the God principle is cognizable. If we were to admit that the religious or spiritual person’s concern is with the larger part of the Godhead, the seventy-five percent uncognisable reality, then it is but natural that the person on the brink, the sceptic, is unlikely to see the reality of the religious person’s efforts. Unless the unbeliever apprentices himself or herself to the pursuit of the uncognisable Supreme, even intellectually to begin with, there is no chance he or she would see any worth in the spiritual adventure. He would be said to be spiritually blind. That may well be the folly of the unbeliever, but the so-called religious person too cannot afford to forget that one fourth of God resides in the world. To dismiss the people of this world is to dismiss God. The so-called worldly pursuit, when divinized, represents half of what we call purushartha and it cannot be ignored. The religious person is answerable to worldly nicety, material refinement and mundane love because these things are God in disguise, God hiding in the form of this material world. One who does not see the divine reality of this world is also spiritually blind. Just another sort of blindness, that’s all.

Further, between the two, the God in the world and God beyond, the beginning is always made with God in the world. We move from the gross to the subtle. Spirituality, like charity, begins at home. No wonder sage Patanjali puts yama and niyama, the ten non-sublime principles such as truth, non-violence, purity etc as the founding pillars of spiritual edifice. Without these, there is no passport to high heaven, no samadhi. So, someone who asks ‘He is so religious, how come he lies?’ is not wrong. Being normally truthful is necessary before one can lay claims to ultimate truth. Being normally blissful is necessary before laying claim to ultimate bliss. Excellence in the normal is necessary. Without it, the journey beyond the normal becomes abnormal rather than extraordinary.

Actually, the believers and non-believers are sailing in the same boat. May those who have taken up the oars to seek excellence in this world, also offer to row that part of the passage which is the pursuit of the real but unseen. And may those who have taken up the oars to seek the unseen, turn their sights to their immediate surroundings, and be more responsive to the concerns of this world.

~Raj Supe (Kinkar Vishwashreyananda)
Editor, The Mother