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Pujya Dr. K.C. Varadachari - Volume -2



The psychological problems of religion are worthy of serious consideration. There is such a thing as religious experience distinguishable from the other kinds of experience listed in general psychology. It reveals a new attitude to reality and this has been described as ‘conversion’. Conversion technically would mean reversed and the attitude that man has to the world around him undergoes a change or reversal. Things which appeared valuable and worth-seeking seem suddenly to have become valueless and unworthy of pursuit. This is the characteristic feature of religious conversion – the world may become an illusory thing, shadows and the relationship with men and women becomes almost cut off. One enters into a silence of solituide becomes a monk and homeless one : to him the welfare of his own being or self means to renounce the world and all attachments (vairagya): A new vision (viveka) or discrimination arises and that only leads him in search of ultimate values everywhere, wandering from shrine to shrine, sect to sect and belief to belief and practice to practice. This is not mere curiosity but an earnestness to find a new way of life or finding it to pursue it till the end or goal is reached. A study of conversion among the saints and prophets will reveal this dynamic change in attitude towards the world and towards the other world.

This conversion may come about through a mystic awakening – a struggle against bondage and slavery and defeat. It may come about as a vision or intuition of something that has called one to that stage. Mystic experiences are the most individual occasions of conversion. The conversion has been technically stereotyped in the religious institutions and one gets converted without inward change and this of course does not lead anywhere. As in every thing the method of educating one into religion through habits of training etc. rites and so on, is almost a case of putting the cart before the horse. Natural conversion is a matter of a different order from the conversion technique of religious institutions.

Prayerfulness of the seeker after religious experience or one who has been touched by the religious attitude interiorly is a factor of great importance. One naturally turns to the Ultimate God in all matters and depends on God for everything. Prayer is the acceptance of guidance from the Ultimate with which one feels a personal relationship of dependence. Worship is the act of expression of this adoration of the Divine or illuminating principle in one’s life and activity. One turns to God when one has found oneself in all things utterly helpless and unequal to the Universal situation. Indeed every small thing becomes a matter for God-help and God-guidance. One already feels oneself in a new Universe, all the old constructions of oneself having fallen to pieces. The Divine is thus the illuminating principle and power (div; to shine, to illuminate).

It is true that psychologists have listed that men fall into types. Some psychologists have stated that there are healthy minded souls and unhealthy or sick minded souls. The religion of the healthy minded is objective and is manifestative of social commitments whereas the sick minded is one who is subjective. This division is or course very unsatisfactory and yokes religion to societal demands as such. The second kind or devision of man would be into the tough-minded and soft minded. This division like all other divisions of this kind is not aware of the tough-mindedness of the introspective monk in respect of ultimate values and the soft-minded or weak-mindedness of the extravert social man.Many do not recognize any but the psychological views of some of the psychologists. Indian typology is clearly not canvassed by him. The divine and the titan division of the men as pointed out by the Gita or his own division of men as satva (equable) rajas (activities) and tamas (ineatia) also helps the appreciation of the religious types: The satva type is seeking only the Divine, the rajas seeks the divine but does not known who the divine is and thus pursues even the titan, because the later reveals more activity than the former who revels in silence and calm and balance. Whereas the tamasic person either is objectively worshipping and praying in the usual tribal or traditional way without seeking that inward experience that is the sine qua non of religious experience. Some writers have suggested the typology of mystic and monk, the mystic being held to the prophetic in his impulse towards the transformation of the society, whereas the monk is a recluse and solitary and individualistic and even pessimistic about the society, and its redemption.

The study of the sub-conscious levels of the human consciousness or life is seen to throw considerable light on the psychology of religious beliefs. This has been shown to be so by writers like Freud, Jung and others. However we have also to take into consideration the vast amount of mistakes that such a study of the sub-conscious origins of religion can give. They may throw some light on the symbolic erruptions in terms of vision and dream of the religious man and even the practicant of the religious life. As Sri Aurobindo pointed out dream consciousnessor the sub-conscious is a vast area wherein the super-conscious and sub-conscious meet. Religious experiences unless disciplined by earlier training can give rise to dreams and visions which are incapable of being universalised in their meaning or suggestion. The psycho-analytic method has undoubtedly proved this point also. Religious life and experienced have been considered to be regressive and pathological however universal may be this pathology. Prayer and worship are indeed conditioned by society to those experiences by tradition and custom and this had led to the speculative inclusion of religious experiences under sub-conscious and unconscious headings of psychology. Religious consciousness aims at integration with a higher consciousness whereas the integration that is sought for by the unconscious is with the conscious life and this leads to disintegration rather than integration, for whilst it achieves perhaps an integration with life it brings about disintegration in the physiology of man, his brain and so on. Thus Brightman’s inclusion of subconscious as the source of our religious yearnings is confused.

Religious life reveals a double valuation of society: it discovers that the society as it exists is valueless and turns its back on it: but in a different sense after it attains its own ultimate realisation it seeks to change the society from within and without. This unfortunately is not the whole of religion according to some extraverted thinkers on Religion. They consider that societal transformation is rendered possible at the very beginning itself by the social work or service or humanitarianism practiced by the aspiring religious novice. Social transformation is offered as the means to individual religious attainment: this surely is a fine example of putting the card before the horse; the means becomes the end and the end is utilised as a means.

Thus the humanistic psychologies and sociologies of Religion have been unable to clearly perceive the goal and value or religion as an ultimate value. It is true that society is impatient of results from its religious individuals who have almost forsaken it for the attainment of the unattainable. It offers the work of changing it to the religious seekers and demands that the goal is identical if not superior to that got by the monk - the sannyasin: Modern sannyasa has itself undertaken this change: to live in the world and for the world with the spirit of Godliness and detachment. This humanism is undoubtedly as social philosophy of religion today. But the sannyasin has become a peculiar kind of samsarin or worldly man, and his yearning for God has been replaced by his yearning for man, and man becomes Saint by such means today. The psychology of man in society is called sociology and the attitude of humanism has facilitated this aspect of religion.

Religion has its dealings with man and his institutions. It is an important question how far religion has dictated the shape and form of social institutions like marriage, family life and children and education in society, and caste system and so on. Religious life in so far as it is a dedication to God and His service subordinates all institutions to this ideal, and renounces all that is contrary to it. Thus the lay society is influenced by the religious attitude and institutions of the society are sometimes half-way house  (sarai)  towards fuller religious expression and institutions.

The prophetic religious constantly has to come to terms with the common people who hardly hearken to the universal voice in clear and distinct measures. They always seek a compromise with the inflexible ideal of the prophetic messiah. Thus compromise is the essential fact in the sociological expression of the prophetic ideal.

Economic forces also determine the nature of the religious life. The conflict between the classes described as haves and have not has been one of those which fissured the religious. Religion transcends the economic world and values: in fact later people tried to make religion take part in economic equilibrium and egalitarianism. But the eceonomic values are subordinate to inward value of ultimate experience. However modern religious movements have more and more turned towards the problem of economic life. Bread is important as the element of religious peace, prayer and contemplation. Equality in the social life such as abolition of caste-divisions, and class-divisions is considered to be one of the ideals of religion: To this fact almost all religious prophets have appealed on account of the acceptance of God as the Creator of all, and as the Father of all. Thus social reform in terms of abolition of the barriers and obstacles for the experience of God and His worship as between, man and man, man and women led later to the extension of the scope of religious equality to areas of social institutions also.

Indeed the great slogans of the French Revolution equality, liberty and fraternity are definitely referable to the religious mystic awareness of the spiritual world whose extension to social life was deemed utopian or only limitedly applicable. The socialistic pattern of society though now sought to be explained in a materialistic economic language owes its basic drive to the application of idealism to the context of society. The great dictum of Hegal that the real is the rational was made to apply to the realistic efforts to make the rational the real. This may well be called idealistic also, for the attempt is also incapable of being perfected with men who have not awakened to the inward realization of God as the Ultimate value. Socialism is a godly effort but without the subjective inward emphasis on realization or  Vision of the ultimate value of man in God and God in man, it is likely to wither away.

Thus the sociology of Religion is undoubtedly important but only its importance will be studied in the context of the impact of religious consciousness of attitude on society and its economic institutions and class-formations and this is of course in the context of the past. Today few religions live by the Vision and indeed they live by the rationalized corollaries from such premises as they have concretely formulated for the sake of institutional religion. The study of instituionalised religion of course is different from a study of true inward religious attitudes, which have the direct force of Vision.

An inspection of  several religions has shown that there are eight chief beliefs :

i)       There are great and permanent value experiences

ii)      There is belief in One God or many gods (Higher Powers)

iii)     There is eveil in this world also along with value.

iv)      Man is a soul, or spiritual being and not merely a physical being of organism.

v)       There is in creation purpose and in our existence there is purpose.

vi)      Soul is immortal, though its body is mortal

vii)     There are valid religious experiences

viii)    There is belief in religious action.

The Religious Experience is something that one cannot but seek in himself and of which he has again and again evidence. That the realisation of these religious experiences involves struggle in alas too true. What opposes this ascent is an evil. Relativity of evil is of course to be accepted and the existence of absolute evil is of course a different matter.

For this purpose religion accepts the thesis of a finite God for his evidence reveals the undissolved conflict between the good and the bad or evil (the sadhu and asadhu, sukrta and duskrta, saint and sinner, and accordingly Gods like Ahura-maza and Ahirman, Rama and Ravana, Narayana and Naraka, and so on.). The immortality of the soul is believed in two ways: as a continuous rebirth by a soul, that is a soul takes new bodies after the earlier ones have perished owing to sacrifice or old-age or death in battle, and ii) as a soul even when going beyond the body with a spiritual nature or god-body. The belief in the eternal preservation of values in one’s life of struggle, or even to preserve it grants immortality. Lastly all religions do pay heed to work for God, as service of God in man, of Values in the world, or rites and rituals etc.,.

Karma in Indian religion is the constant performance of prescribed duties or dharma for the welfare of oneself in respect of ultimate values of moksa and nisreyas.