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



Among the profoundest men who adorned the 19th century, and who had a hand in the shaping of our religious history, three persons stand foremost as the stalwart defenders of Hinduism in its purity. The rest were Reformers. Even among them three, only two stand out as the preservers and conservers of the ancient Indian tradition. The Renaissance, according to Professor D.S. Sarma, began with the call to purify Hinduism of its ills and maladies, its accretions and distortions and to return to the theism inherent in the Upanisads. This version of Hinduism was called Brahmoism to remind all that Hinduism is the religion of Brahman, and that it is a casteless community. The sectarian cults usually developed an anti-Brahman attitude, while the brahmins were caste-ridden and caste-determined men.

The criticisms levelled against Hinduism was almost entirely by westerners, and rightly they had pointed out what according to them were the social ills that blackened it.     Many of these ills were not inherent to religious experiences and were not sanctioned by original texts at all, and if the religion of the Upanisads were to survive and live, drastic reforms had to be carried out.      These great souls, led by Ram Mohan Roy, undertook to bring into being a samaj known as the Brahmo Samaj. The purified or reformed Hinduism which it preached attracted intellectuals and led to an earnest study of the indigenous literature of the Upanisads, and to a newly patterned worship of God in a simple way of communion in spirit.     But this so much resembled the Christian pattern, as distinct from the temple rituals, that it did not really satisfy except such of those who had absorbed the western ways but were unconsciously clinging or returning to Indian traditional beliefs. This movement shows how mutual religious influences could bring forth a Christianised Hinduism and be the fore-runner of a Hinduised Christianity; a gain indeed for an integrative fusion in the years to come.

It is well to remember that this was a kind of repetition of an earlier century, when Hinduism was Islamised and Islam was Hinduised in the Sikhism of Nanak and the Din-i-lahi of Akbar.  This is a historical process inevitable when different peoples are thrown together. Through early conflict and because of fear creating suspicion, men seem to stand against each other. Later, when the conquerors learn to be civil and understanding, they all learn to respect the deep ideas of the conquered and adopt them to fuse a unity of the divided. This Integrative process has been going on. So after preliminary opposition rather defensive in nature on the one hand and offensive on the other hand, there takes place a mutual recognition of merits which leads to fusion through the adoption of the best elements in both. This is the synthetic nature of all integrative living religions. Those that do not adopt this process, through their best spiritual representatives or the common people, tend to fade into oblivion. There will, at all times, remain remnants of the extremists on both sides whose suspicions and fears cannot be removed. The psychology of fanaticism thrives on these, and fanaticism is egoistic in its expression in faith, and thrives on fear and defensive offensives. Brahmoism was the first attempt gallantly made to affirm one’s own religious integrity.

The second renaissance effort was that of Dayanand Sarasvati, the founder of the Arya Samaj, who tried to instil new forces through the revival of Vedic studies, which had suffered much and were suffering from the western materialistic and naturalistic interpretations of the original theism of the Vedas.     Further, if theism had to survive it had to pull out the Upanisads from the hands of the illusionists who claimed their authority from the Upanisads for the establishment of the Nirguna Brahman as the one reality, and the world as a phenomenal entity. Despite the claims of the Brahmos to be theists, in so far as they relied on the Upanisads alone, it was possible for them to affirm Brahman who was not an Isvara, the latter being only a phenomenal appearance of Brahman. This was because of the prevalence of the theory of Absolute Brahman as contrasted with Isvara who was the Brahman in relation to the world, its creator and sustainer and destroyer or withdrawer. The Veda seems to favour an, Isvara-concept rather than a monistic concept of a relationless Absolute. The theistic strain in Dayanand also made him turn towards proselytization of non-hindus who had gone over to other religions or were converted to them. The suddhi or purification meant that all could be made fit to study the Veda. Veda was now thrown open to all those who believed in Hinduism. Caste barriers were abolished. In fact caste was no longer to be used to bar anybody from the study of the Veda. The study of the Vedas was being pursued by the western scholars and no one could prevent people of other religions from studying them; but the danger was that Vedic texts insisted upon disciplinary preliminaries such as siksa (training or education), kalpa (engineering - doing building), vyakarana (grammar), nirukta (etymology) and Jyotisa (astronomy) which alone could help a proper understanding of the Veda: Lacking these, others could only distort the Vedic teaching and make it secular and profane, which in fact occured. Sincere though the scholars of the West were, the Veda for them was only a great field for studies in indology, comparitive philology and religion.

Such an extension and re-grouping of social patterns was necessitated because there was no method by which a Hindu, converted to other religions, could be enabled to return to his original religion and participate in the Hindu community.     The flexibility had to be restored to thought and experience without Impairing the security of the religious practices. It is well known that sly infiltration of alien doctrines could destroy the religious fabric; and faith could be rudely shaken.     This was therefore a defensive reform to enable sincere men to return to the ancient fold.    We know well that even though many have embraced other religions, they continue to hold on to dogmas which are not germane to them. However when an attempt was made to make political device, it was stopped by this Arya Samajist movement of reconversion. The renaissance awakened the religious men of Hinduism to a sense of religious and political realities and prepared for a revival of spiritual interest in the Veda not merely as the oldest spiritual scripture but also as the living scripture of mankind, and of Hinduism in particular. It could be the scripture of the entire humanity. There is no doubt, as Sri Aurobindo speaking of Dayanand said, that his great work has cleared the mistakes and corrected most of them which are the results of western (Christian-slanted and materialistic) scholarship,

A study of the nature of the spiritual climate of the Vedic-Upanisadic times emerged and as a result Hinduism could look forward to becoming a world religion. We could speak about the great headway being made in the studies on Buddhism from the point of view of comparitive religion, and see also how & later busdhism eclipsed the original teaching of the Buddha, and how instead of being heretical Hinduism, Buddhism played the part of refomer and deepener of the mystical experiences and led men to heights of self-realisation hardly paralleled later.  Buddhism was found to be in the spiritual tradition of Hinduism, or rather Upanisadic thought and conduct; and even as Hinduism became a ritualistic religion catering to the common man, it (Buddhism) also was stepping down to the level of the lay man; and two types of conduct in spirituality came into being. However the theosophical writers following closely on the writings on Buddhism helped to interest its members in spiritual illumination based on the study and practice of religions.  The idea of a world religion or a Universal or divine wisdom, “theosophia” was very much in the air. The Iheosophical Society tried to speak for the evolu­tion of a higher man - an idea already mooted by some of the advanced seers in the west in the 19th century like Nietaeche, Goethe and Fichte. Aurobindo showed that this was in fact the aspiration of the Vedic Rishi Rbhu, and the Yajna is said to be a means for the evolution or making of an Immortal Man, as in the Nachiketa-episode in the Kathopanisad.

A study of comparitive religion could not but reveal the insight of world-unity at least in the lives and teachings of the prophets and seers, however divergent their social and other conditions may have been. It is also evident that the later history of each one of these   religions revealed a falling off from the standards of realisation, and hence the failure of vision, growth and transcendence. It is perhaps true to say that the Iheosophical Society did not have outstanding scholars in any field as such, but the profound labour of inter-relating and cross indexing had provided the stimulus for the creation of an organized body of world religious texts. Recently books on the several Gospels of each religion have been brought out which continue the Theosophic tradition.

1.      * It is also perhaps quite true that they hardly helped
Swami Vivekananda in his American tour, or at the World Congress of Religions at Chicago, as Swami Vivekananda himself has stated.


*   Utopias have invariably been written in a prophetic vein - whether it is by the Christian or Marxist or Psychologist or economist or idealist.

2.      It must be remembered that Theosophy does not aim at presenting Hinduism as a world-religion, or as the world religion, but only as a constituent of world religion. The aim is to promote mutual understanding and experience of the occult and divine truths of Reality, evolution and the goal of creation. It is, in a sense, scientific in outlook but then all has turned out to be outlooks on occult experiences.

The world outlook had come to stay as the goal of all religions. Parochial religions could hardly keep up to that purpose and became unsuitable. It is very necessary to remember that it is through the spiritual genius ofSri Ram Krishna Paramahamsa that the Occidental oriented Indians found a  return to their ancient Hindu tradition. If Ram Mohan Roy hearked back to the Upanisads, Sri Rama Krishna Paramaharasa hearkened back to the Agama - the popular religious experience of the mystic order of tantra.      He was neither an educated person like the brilliant Rammohan Roy, nor a learned Pandit like Dayanand Sarasvati, but he was a soul drinking from the fountain of spiritual life awakened to the glorious presence of the deity in the idol of Kali the World Mother, and its identity with the One Brahman of the Upanisads - the “Ekam sat” of the Veda.

If one of the major tenets of Hindu worship is the worship of God in the iconic form, and if this is the one tenet that mystics all over the world (except Hindu) have rejected as materialistic and gross, then this movement initiated by Sri Rama Krishna is a return to the
Icon - worship - which is basic to the traditional worship of the Agama or tantra. It is of course the most accessible to man with his sensory perceptions and seeking a sensory visual representation. It is a call to return to ancient temple culture from the westernised pulpits.      It is also a return to the icon detested by Islam, which undertook a massive idol-breaking sacrifice to the Nirguna Invisible Godhead - Allah. This is truly a return to Hinduism.

The worship of the icon was a legitimate kind of worship of the Absolute Godhead invoked into the Icon. The simple priest revealed the Absolute Godhead in the icon to his disciple Narendra when he asked him to show him God. His (Narendra’s) eyes were opened to the presence of the transcendent in the icon, the gross material pratika or bimba. This is a great enough vision - the actual confirmation of the belief that the Absolute has both form, and indeed many forms, whilst being One only as the transcendent Secondly these icons are not just for the purohit or priesthood, because there are always genuine knowers of the Ultimate through realisation of the Ultimate in the finite and the formed, in and through names. Thus was the scepticism and logical contradiction removed by actual vision. Experience, in a sense, makes the impossible possible. Further, Sri Rama Krishna revealed that all religions devoted to the Ultimate Divine are equally valid means to the realisation of the Ultimate. The Divine has infinite phases, though One. He is a unit as multiplex or, to use the phrase of Errol E. Harris, the Ultimate is a polyphasic unity. The Monism is poly-phasic and is not a barren Oneness negating all inner divisions or differences or wholes. The manyaided experiences of the One God give rise to infinite forms of the One Divine all of which are equally true and real, but all of which are those which point towards the Oneness of all these. This exposition of the spiritual nature of Reality is the insight and guiding light of all developments in the 20th century. This is the strongest emphasis that Swami Vivekananda made in his great talks and speeches during the last decade of the 19th century. The experience of the One in the many and through the many is verily the basis of the Advaita or Ekatva statement of the Veda and the Upanisada. The “ekam” refers to the Ultimate Godhead, the One purusa or One Being (existent); this becomes all inclusive advaita rather than an all-negating advaita. The spiritual harmonisation samanvayata of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa is one of the most significant intuitions that has led to the unification of all faiths, and one that can reveal the Universal Religion.

Monotheisms like Islam refuted all gods or reduced them to subordination. The puranas and also the interpreters of the Vedas in earlier phases had spoken of the dethroning of the gods and the exaltations of the other gods, and this obviously in certain mythologies, had turned oust to be battles for power and position.  All these are due to the rajasic and tamasic ways of looking at the concept of the supreme power. Sectarian squabbles or religious fratricides issue from the non-possession of knowledge or ignorance of the divine nature.  Sri Ramakrishna showed by his example how all are one being but the names of the One godhead, or rather all ultimately refer to the One supreme Godhead whose embodiments and name they are (nama-rupa distinctions).


Two monumental statues adorn the Madras Beach. They are near each other. They are of two eminent sons of India who have changed the direction of Indian history in respect of its religious freedom and political emancipation. Both were under fire from forces which had emasculated India, and yet in a sense both were necessary to enable us to gain our freedom through a double or twofold renaissance in religion and politics. They are Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi. Both made religion their total concern, but it was a religion that sought both here and hereafter a freedom from all shackles that prevented every single human being from recovering that inherent right to be free, and that meant freedom in an integral sense through religious dedication.     Both these statues are austere: one is that of a ‘wanderer’ who walked the length and breadth of India to feel the very mud and soil of India, sacred to all seers and seekers alike, and the other who donned the loin cloth - a naked fakir as one contemptuously called him -who felt his oneness with all the downtrodden and the dispossessed. Both have their staff of service, illumination, renunciation and dedication to the One supreme Divine, the One God of all the peoples of the world.    Both spelled out the goal of Humanity to be what the Ancient Seers of India had envisioned for eternity - dedication to truth, and renunciation (anasakti in the language of Gandhiji). They spoke with the unadulterated eloquence of the heart. Compassion ruled and guided their steps. High idealism combined with that occult practicality which goes with simplicity and spirituality was their inner light and motivating force.

India had a message to deliver and a work to do, a contribution to make to the welfare and higher evolution of the world. It was undoubtedly a great endeavour; no one uttered this inner message in such clear terms, perhaps none ever uttered it earlier.  The singular call to Hinduism to become a universal religion had something of captivating magnetism; it was a call to awake from slumber - Vivekananda was ever fond of raising this call Uttistata Jagrata, arise! awake!  It was an eye-opener to India herself that she had use for God in His stupendous creation, and for the founding of a Universal religion.

Vivekananda, the saintly Monk, was the elder and he stimulated and fired the imagination of world youth, and of Indian youth in particular to dedicate themselves as sannyasins to carry the message to all over the World.

No one escaped his magic and charm; his high eloquence thrilled and filled the hearts and heads of one and all. He initiated the whole nation to a new vision; the whole world to a new aspiration that would build up an enduring spiritual unity of the West and East.

Swami Vivekananda, in one of his writings, said that there should be a college at Madras for the study of comparitive religion in order to foster mutual understanding that would help the realisation of the ideal of one Universal religion, rather than have competing religions each trying by mutual criticism to arrive at universality of helping all humanity. In so far as that study spelled out the goal and ideal of universal Religion he had no doubt that Vedanta would naturally be accepted as the best candidate for that position. Vedanta, for Swami Vivekananda, meant only Advaita or Non-dualism or Monism, the Unity or Universality principle which is basic to all processes of thought itself. Though thought everywhere analyses, it is yet seeking for that which unites all and integrates all, and as such a rational religion cannot stay at the stage of division. It is impelled by the logic of its nature to seek to become a universal principle as well as a uniting principle. So when one applies the same unifying principle, or seeks to discover it as ever present in all systems and experiences, it is clearly reasonable to expect that such principles could be discovered.

The field of investigation is not the field of reason, abstract or practical, or even aesthetic, but the field of religious experiences themselves. Religious experiences in the various religions have however developed certain dogmas or articles of faith not subject to reason or understanding, and were thus opaque to intellectual investigation. Therefore one had to search for the rationale or meaning of these dogmas - not an easy process as these are said to come intuitively or through revelation. It is only the Indian seers who discovered that in the sphere of revelations the ordinary principles of non-self-contradiction (badhita) should not be applied but samanvaya or harmonisation of even the mutually contradictory revelations or vakyas should be undertaken. This is the contribution of Mimamsa as distinguished from tarka or nyaya, in the field of logic of revelation.

This was the reason why linguistic and grammatical interpretations and analysis of the texts became a serious field of study requisite for interpreting the vedic texts. But this by itself takes one nowhere if the experiences or intuitions are absolutely unverifiable, which indeed they happen to be to many of the scholars averse to spiritual awakening, or unfitted for it. The awakening of man to this intuitive region or area of experience is to awaken him also to the harmony of the religious doctrines, not only on the basis of partial truths which they tend to represent, but also to affirm that they are capable of leading to the apprehension of the Whole truth. Each religion, in its dynamic condition as a living religion of some at least of its members, has its nisus to the One supreme Being or God, and in this sense wholly becomes sufficient for the purpose of realisation.

Swami Vivekananda continued the spiritual insight sanctified by Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa by formulating the main form of the Universal Religion, that was to be.

His own clear statement is that by the study of comparitive religion two conclusions, both scientific in nature, could be drawn.

“I would like to draw your attention to the one that bears upon the universality of religions, and the other, on the idea of the oneness of things”.*

He had a definite idea that religion essentially belongs to the supersenauous.

*           Complete works of Swami Vivekanand             Vol. III      p.185

“Religion belongs to the supersensuous and not to the sense plane . . . It is beyond all reasoning and is not on the plane of the intellect . . .It is a vision, an inspiration, a plunge into the unknown and unknowable, making the unknowable more than known.” **

He avers also that it is wrong to think that this vision or inspiration could be called such, for really it is something that comes out of the individual.

“What is called inspiration by other sects, the Vedantin begs the liberty to call the expiration of man (for all energy is really from inside flowing out)."1

“Religions do not come from without but from within.” 2

It is usual to think that so far as knowledge of external objects is concerned it is acquired through the mediation of the senses and the mind, which are extroverted in the sense that their objects are outside themselves, and which they bring to the soul to experience. These are questioned by philosophers, for all knowledge so got is subject to the individual’s sense-organs and mind, and are distorted and discoloured if not wholly different from the nature of the objects outside oneself. They can be false or illusory, or in one word,

**         Complete works of Swami Vivekanand             “               p.1

1          Complete works of Swami Vivekanand             Vol. I        p. 388

2          Complete works of Swami Vivekanand             III             p.2

untrustworthy; dubitable. The religious experience, since it stems from the self or from within, is true.

“Religion brings to man eternal life”

Man is driven by his external experiences brought to him by the senses to go beyond or behind them, and is driven to study that which makes such experiences possible. This is an inevitable result of the very nature of man. Since ‘religion permeate a the whole of man’s life’, one seeks to integrate the two phases of his experience, the outer and the inner. It is precisely this integration that has been the problem of man through the ages, and it is a problem both for science and religion.

Swami Vivekananda says

“Two theories have gained some acceptance amongst modern scholars. One is the spirit-theory of religion, the other the evolution or the idea of the Infinite. One party maintains their ancestor worship is the beginning of religious ideas the other that religion originates in the personification of the powers of nature. Man wants to keep the memory of his dead relatives and thinks they are living even when the body is dissolved, and he wants to place food for them and in a certain sense to worship them. Out of that come the growth we call religion.” ††

In Egyptian, Babylonian, Ionian, Chinese and many other religions in America and elsewhere this ancestor worship prevailed and formed the content of their religions. Egyptians believed in the soul being a double, and it is the double that went out of the body and yet lived on when one died, (ibid) This is of course what survives and yet many theories have originated as to where it abides or wanders, and as to how it has to be propitiated. Swami Vivekananda shows that it was even believed that when the outer body was hurt the double was also injured. The concept of ghosts and man’s experiences of the ghosts form some of the most interesting features of western legend and history of religion. It is well known that in Ancient Hindu theory and in popular religions we have the belief in ancestor worship - pitr-worship -burial customs and so on. The belief in paisaca persists in all parts of the world and there are good and bad varieties of these deceased spirits which are believed to be disembodied spirits influencing the lives of all. The Chinese are said to have this kind of ancestor worship as the main content of their religion.

“The only religion that can really be said to flourish in China is that of ancestor worship”, says Swami Vivekananda (ibid).

He goes on to say

“On the other hand there are scholars who from the ancient Aryan literature show that religion originated in nature worship”, and that “though in India we find proofs of ancestor worship elsewhere, yet in the oldest records there is no trace of it whatsoever.   In the Rg Veda sahmhita, the most ancient record of the Aryan race we do not find any trace of it.” (ibid)

Modern studies do clearly show that the religion of the Vedic aryan had quite a strong element of wonder of nature that led to the  ‘personification of the powers of nature’ - the unmistakable feeling of the presence of the divine forces that operate through Nature as their inner, psychological phase.

The theory of religion as ancestor-worship and as personification of the powers of nature are apparently contradictory, but they can be reconciled on a third basis - a theory of struggle to transcend the limita­tion of the senses. This is the view of Swami Vivekananda - his theory of religion as the struggle to transcend the limitations of senses, (p.59. Vol.11). Though science may be objective knowledge or knowledge of outer objects etc, it has to be known that all such knowledge is for a subject. Similarly religion tends to grant inner knowledge or knowledge of the self, and this has to be related to the outer world. If the inner knowledge is of the eternal, that which is outer knowledge is of the transitory. And these have to be fused or integrated.  Religion therefore has also to establish the relation between the eternal soul and transitory nature. Further it has its primary function of revealing the ‘eternal relation between the eternal soul and the eternal God’. (Vol III. p.2)

The important problem therefore is really a triune one, how is the world related to the man or soul and Cod, and how is the soul related to the Divine. We cannot, really speaking, reject any one of these three knowledges, ie. science, religion or mysticism. It is one of the most characteristic signs of the modern Age that science has made leaps undreamt of in respect of the knowledge of matter, motion, energy, life, and mind, and philosophers of science have been breaking across the frontiers that had previously separated the several sciences. The dividing lines between matter energy, life and mind are getting abolished. Verification of the ancient intuitions of Samkhya and yoga is to be had in ample measure. Therefore one of the challenges to dualistic thought is being posed; unification of knowledge pertaining to the external world has to be supported by the knowledge of the inner being that is living and growing in it, and this is a province of philosophy. Swami Vivekananda visualised this development and welcomed this influence, for the more one pursues these studies of science the more clearly it would be evident that all these are phenomenal,
mere appearance, that is to say, there is only One Being that appears in manifold ways. (Vol. IV. p. 188).

Man has an idea, says Swami Vivekananda, that there can be only one religion and there can be only one prophet and that there can be one incar­nation.  (Vol.IV. p 120) but this is not true for there are many religions based on One universal religion.

“It is a most glorious dispensation of the Lord that there are so many religions in the world; and would to God that these would increase every day until every man had a religion to himself” (Vol.VI. p.17)

Therefore it follows that each individual should become a prophet.

“Religion is for the training of the prophets; schools and colleges should be training grounds for prophets” (Vol.VI p.10)

And so also each individual should become an incarnation and temple of God, and thus all could aspire to become incarnations of the One God. (Vo.I. p.332)

In speaking about the ideal of a universal Religion Swami Vivekananda emphasized the universal aspects of every religion available to our study. Every religion has a book, a sacred literature, which comprises the vision and intuitions of the founder or founders. This is its revelation. It is beyond the scope of reasoning, though every attempt at philosophising or rationalising it for communication and understanding proceeds within the limits of these intuitions or body of intuitions.  There is a mythology in every religion; a religion without mythology is inconceivable, for a myth is the means by which the supersensuous truths and history of the spirit are communicated through symbolic representations. It is true that many of these myths get mixed up with superstition and other lower-order symbols, or symbols of the vamacara so to speak, that degrades the myth’s utility for religious and spiritual illumi­nation! Myths that lead to the intuition or revelation of highest Oneness are real myths.* Myths must touch the heart and lead men to the heart of hearts, The myths of Hinduism have this dynamic quality. Swami Vivekananda has narrated the stories of Prahlada and others found in the Mahabharata, Ramayana, etc., and about the sages of India, which have a profound interpenetration of myth and history of spirit. Myths are the spiritual history of a religious experience and should not be dealt with in a gross manner. As plato said it is necessary to review our myths and communicate the elevating myths whilst throwing out the myths that tend to degrade the character of the gods and so on. Indian puranas had suffered from this, and therefore it is usual to divide them into three kinds, the sattvika, (pure and elevating, spiritual), the rajasic (confusing and passion-provoking) and tamasic (demoniac and producing ignorance). So too the care exercised in the communication of the truths of the puranas and itihasas was left to disciplined men or teachers.

‘The teacher of religin must be perfectly pure, and then alone comes the value of his words, because he is only then the true ‘transmitter’. What can be transmit if he has not spiritual power in himself. There must be the worthy vibration of spirituality in the mind of the teacher. (Vol. III. P. 51).

All knowledge flowing through such a mind, whether it is mystical experience, or philosophy, or myth, or ritual, is to be true and to lead to illumination and destruction of ignorance and doubt.

“Religious thought should be directed to developing man’s spiritual side. Science, art, learning and metaphysical research all have their proper functions in life, but if you seek to blend them, you destroy their individual characteristics until, in time, you eliminate the spiritual for instance, from the religious altogether”. This should remind us about this danger, great indeed today.

After mythology, which is symbolic and elevating and capable of illumining and making concrete the spiritual experiences, come the rituals. Every ritual is a certain process of worshipping the Divine, or communicating in terms of the visible the invisible or connecting them with each other.

“First man becomes a thinker. When you think upon a problem there is no sense-enjoyment there but the exquisite delight of thought... It is that that makes the man... Concentration comes. You no longer feel your body. Your senses have stopped. You are above all physical senses. All that was manifesting itself through the senses is concentrated upon that one idea.     That moment you are higher than the animal. You get the revelation none can take from you - a direct perception of something higher than the body... Therein lies the goal of man not upon the plane of the senses”. (Vol. VI. p. 68)

Ritual is the homage that one pays to the transcendent experience.

Thus revelation or mystical experience of the Divine Oneness expresses itself for rationality in terms of philosophy, symbolises itself in terms of myth, and ritualises itself in terms of visible worship and performance. The element of history of the spiritual life, and its growth and expression, is also necessary to make religious experiences not merely personal to any one but ultimately available to everybody. It is one of the great businesses of religious institutions to preserve all the four. The form the structure and pattern of all religions. Similarly it has to be the pattern of the Universal Religion.

It is clear also that a study of the several religions would reveal certain definite differentiations which might help us to arrange them as equally beneficial, or otherwise in relative grades.

“Fortunately for me 1 studied the Christian religion, the Mohammedan, the Buddhist and others - all of them have the same foundation”. (Vol.1 p. 300)

Swami Vivekananda however writes elsewhere (Vol. VIII. p. 122 ff) that where other religions depend on a book (scriptural writing by some writer or prophet), inculcate veneration of some person, and also insist that what he and that book speak are the whole truth and none else speaks it, Vedanta does not believe in any of the above. It does not believe in a book. Not only that, it affirms, following the great literature of revelations the Upanisads, that “not by reading of books can we realise the self. Nor does it venerate any person - ‘not one man or woman has ever become an object of worship among the Vedantins’ since God has entered into and has become every one and everything’ - atmaiva abhut vijanatah.  Whilst the structure of religions is as above, comprising the revelations, philosophy (dogma), myth, and ritual, which may be suggestive of the uniform nature of all religions and the Universal Religion should have all these - it is yet necessary to enquire as to the goals of these religions; the purpose or governing dynamism of these religions in order to find out what indeed could be the goal of a universal religion.

Swami Vivekananda puts it

“Vedanta is concerned only with spirituality” (Vol.VIII p.126)

“It is concerned only with the impersonal Godhead, and not any person however eminent.” (Vol.VIII p.127)

“God is the infinite Impersonal Being - the ever existent”, (ibid.134)

“It is true that he can also be personal but in a different sense from what person - worshippers make it out.”

The most prominent idea in religion for India is
Mukti - freedom from all bondage to the cycle of births and deaths.

“This moksa path is only in India and no where else”

For the western world it is dharma or justice. It is the most vital concept in Greek philosophy as well politics, and so it is perhaps in respect of all worldly life. But religion is not a handmaid of politics nor is to be useful to it.
In India too the importance of dharma is not minimised.

“Dharma is impelling every one day and night to run after and work for happiness. Spiritual independence is the real aspiration, purusartha of India. This is our national purpose: whether you take the vaidiki, the jaina or the bauddha, the Advaita, visistad-vaita or the dvaita - there they are all of one mind.” (Vol.VII.p.458)

The true quality of moksa is the attainment of liberation and this is the essence of spirituality.      The history of India reveals that so long as this purusartha, and so long as every individual is free from interference in his pursuit of moksa, India keeps silence: “but if you run foul of him there, beware you court your ruin.” (ibid). The most sacred and the highest purusartha is that alone for the spiritual man. It can be easily seen that this purusartha is not the most important for the other religions, for they seek dharma or kama or artha in terms of this world and God or religion is only a means for their realisation. The materialistic note is very strong in most of them: the happiness of heaven is but a replica of that courted on earth through austerity and fasting; the bringing down of the Kingdom of God on earth is but the search for a happy kingdom of justice, and the operation of the Tao is but the harmony of naturalness in this world. Thus the Universal Religion must have the power to guide man to his finest goal, of freedom from all bondage, from all ignorance and one experiences God.

“Unless religion makes you realise God it is useless”.

There are of course many who might accept that religion must end in the realisation of God within one’s heart or within oneself. The realisation itself has to be understood as liberation by such people.      There are of course others who consider that even this realisation of God is not the end, but only that which goes beyond the bondage of God, that experience which is that of pure unadulterated freedom - namely Absolute Freedom.

Swami Vivekananda states that his study of religions has made him realise that there are three different stages of ideas in religion:

1.      There is a certain thing, that does not perish but is Immutable - this is the soul.

2.      Though the soul is perfect it has fallen (into ignorance or sin) and it has to regain its purity.

3.      The eternity of the human soul has to assert itself in terms of assertion of its freedom.

These three ideas, viz., the doctrine of the soul, the dogma of its perfection and fall, and the dogma of immortality and freedom, inform all religious intuitions. 
A universal religion would have to accept and explain these three as integral to one another. These are intuitions of the seers. No proofs of reasoning based on sensory experiences could be useful. Further, the second dogma would insist on explaining the fall and the return. The fall is into matter or prakrti, a kind of pravrtti according to Samkhya, a plunge in inconscience or acit, and which is due to an original karma of transgression or beginingless attraction or desire to experience or know prakrti, the external reality, the forbidden fruit, or the fruit that makes life a misery. It is through a series of lives that one evolves upward towards release from matter and its products, and realises one’s Immortal self-nature. Therefore there is reincarnation and almost all religions accept it, though the Christians have denied it owing to mistaking it. There perhaps would be no rebirth once the Divine has been sought and one has been accepted through perfect surrender or conversion. The movement upward is undoubtedly a struggle and

“the struggle which we observe in the animal kingdom for the preservation of its gross body obtains in the human plane of existence for gaining mastery over the mind or for attaining the state of balance.”
(Vol. VI I. p. 155)

The perfection is something there but is manifested more and more. The perfection that is potent and eternally therefore within the soul, gets manifested in evolution through a series of struggles in the animal level; struggles for the preservation or rather the perfecting of the body to be an adequate manifestation of the hidden Divine within     At the level of the human it is not so much the body that one seeks to protect but the mind and its growth.

“We have become bodies. That we are souls we have forgotten entirely. When we think of ourselves it is the body that comes into our Imagination. We behave as bodies: we talk as bodies. We are all body.  From this body we have to separate the soul. Therefore training begins with the body itself (until) ultimately the spirit manifests itself... The Central idea in all this training (yoga) is to attain to that power of concentration,
the power of meditation.” (Vol. VII .p. 435)

The important idea is also the growth of this consciousness of the soulnsss of ourselves and a detachment from the body-ness of ourselves.  This is the ascent through matter, by bringing it more and more under the control of the spirit and to be organised by it.

Swami Vivekananda could visualise the importance of the diversity for the revelation or manifestation of the perfection of the Spirit as spirit. In a letter to Miss Noble, he writes:

“My ideal indeed can be put into a few words and that is to preach unto mankind their divinity and how to make it manifest in every movement of life”.
(Vol. VII. p.189)

As it is, the religions ‘have become mockeries’ for they have not cared for this great nisus in all existence towards the manifestation of the divinity within; this perfection that is operating in and through all the descent and ascent of evolution, in the pravrtti as in the nivrtti. If the former reveals the divinity secret in Nature, the latter reveals the divinity in soul. Thus one is enabled to assert that the One Spirit has always remained the spirit. This is something that can be realised here and now.

“Vedanta teaches that religion is here and now, because the question of this life and that life, of life and death, this world and that world, is merely one of superstition and pre­judice...

Religion is to be realised now. For you to become religious means that you will start without any religion, work your way up and realise things. See things for yourself, and then when you have done that then and then alone you have religion.” (Vol. VI .p. 13)

Affirming that all religion must lead to realisation as the means to this glorious end, the fact remains that these institutions of religion, such as the reverence for a book, a person, or its ingredients such as its ritual or myth or all these could stifle the growth.

Swami Vivekananda illustrates that worship of these, or merely holding on to them, is superstition for they are like the man who wished to produce rain by crushing the pancanga or the rain predicting almanac. (Vol.1, p/326). When men take to the sincere spirit of religion, which is realisation and growth, into widest experience of God everywhere, everywhen and in all souls, then we have realised the truths of the dogmas, rituals, personalities and myths. Without this inward light that is most important these would continue to remain bondages or superstitions.

Gloriously Swami Vivekananda states

“We want to lead mankind to a place where there is neither the Vedas nor the Bible nor the Koran:  yet this has to be done by harmonizing the Vedas, the Bible and the Koran.

Mankind has to be taught that religions are but the varied expressions of the Religion, which is Oneness, so that each may choose the path which suits him best.” (Vol.IV.p.415-l6)

Thus the multiplicity of religions is possibly due to historical contingencies, or due to requirements of evolutionary stages. The ancient division of men into the divine and the titan, the up-goers and down-goers, the spiritually ascending and the materialistic explorers of the diversity is wellknown. There can be another classification that relates to those who have the quality of equalleness, equanimity, harmonisation, and existentiality of the spiritual nature of sattva in one word; there are those who wish a passional-emotional approach to all existence which they seek to secure through force and will and egoism, this is the rajas, type. A third type is down-going towards ignorance, sloth and rest and pleasures of this order, but might also, in conjunction with rajas, lead to wickedness, violence and other vices which are practised with avidity and wantonness. A still further classification may help us to think of four kinds of men as workers; as followers of the path of karma, the followers of love (bhakti), the followers of dhyana or meditation (rajayoga), and the followers of ultimate knowledge (Jnani).

Though in the world we have only mixed types of these classifications, each individual has to discover for himself what suite him best. Further, one may pass from one discipline to another and in his life evolve an inte­gration of all these for the Ultimate purpose of self-realisation or liberation.

It is possible perhaps to have other types of classifications based on epistemology, such as those who are instinct-dependent, those who are intellect-dependent and those who are inspiration-dependent for their knowledge of the world, and their action within it. Attempts have been made to synthesise these types but it is clear that many factors are involved and the arrangement of individuals in any scheme becomes extremely difficult, for cross-classifications are always possible. All this makes the study of psychological types important, and in addition there is the socio-functional type based on brahmana (priest-prophet), ksatriaya (warrior-yogi), vaisya (citizen merchant) and sudra (the worker). The ancients, in addition, had both a common usuage and an etymological usage of the terms they used. All these make religious classification on the basis of fitness and heredity very difficult.

Swami Vivekananda has not classified the religions into any scheme as such, but he made a profound suggestion that Vedanta has so fixed its ideal as to embrace all these four types of worker, love, meditator (dhyani) and the jnani (knower of God or Reality).

“The fourfold man is the ideal of Universal Religion. Tolerance, compassion, diligence, and skill in work of each, dedication and love, concentration and union and knowledge of God as self as one’s self”

These are verily to be possessed by one who has perfected himself. Such is a perfect man. In him, as the Samkhya says, there is aisvarya, virya, jnana and sakti which are perfections of the buddhi or intelligence of the liberated one. Such a personality is rare indeed, but not impossible.

This classification has made for the discovery of the essential features of each one of the religions, the dominant note of each one of them, and the areas of their flourishing and the decline of each one of them in the lives of its members, till today most religions are just denominations or political groupings preventing the ‘open’ religion operating in the lives of each one of its members. It is not, therefore, an accident that Swami Vivekananda was teaching the ‘openness’ of Universal Religion that included the most abstract, that sublated and sublimated the rest - such as he discerned in the Vedanta. Oneness includes all, and manifests in all, and realises itself in all and through all. But in this latter process there is the invariable fact that certain features, aspirations and phases get emphasised or exaggerated, and certain others get thrown into the background and eclipsed.

We have explained how Swami Vivekananda arrived at the principles of Universal Religion, though it must be clear that he sketched the broad outlines only. He did not enter into comparitive mythology and comparitive ritualism, for these too are constituents. Neither the purely eschatological conception of the soul and a religion based on ancestor worship, nor the purely naturalistic concept or rather divination of the powers of nature attracted the real spirituality of religion. As we divinise or apotheosise the parent, and incidentally all those who belong to the line of ancestors -a fact that has occurred from most ancient times as for example the great scriptural text that asks us to apotheosise the Father and Mother and Acarya or Teacher - matr devo bhava pitr-devo bhava, acarya devo bhava - make thy father, thy mother and thy teacher thy Gods - similarly the powers behind Nature were apotheosized.     Indeed, in regard to the state, the King has been apotheosised.     It would be wrong to regard these as anthropomorphical -humanizing; they should rather be regarded as divinising or exalting.    Indeed the same tendency can be seen when great spiritual leaders or those who have rendered some service to society are raised to the level of worship. Saint-hood is conferred on many, even as Godhood is being conferred. There is undoubtedly a great tendency towards the goal of transcendence. as Swsmi Vivekananda has pointed out, the struggle to transcend the psychological, relational, and natural and thus attain to divinity seems to include both the theories of apotheosization of the ancestors and the powers of nature. All beings and things aspire towards divinisation, and surely it is there because they are in the germ, or root, or potentiality all that. Universal religion, then, can be expressed as the Aspiration of all things conscious, unconscious, or superconscious towards divinisation which is One only.

This aspect of religion as the nisus to transcendence of the natural and the human and the psychological is a great intuition. to achieve this purpose it becomes inevitable that one must denaturalise as well as de-anthropomorphize one’s realities of the mundane world whilst yet divinising or apotheosising them. Philosophical necessity for this process is to de-realise the world by the concept of Maya or illusive power of human imagination, which indeed is what is central to the problem of correction (siksa). We have to take into consideration our goal, which is divinisation - becoming divine in all our parts in essence as in expression - we have to consider our means - which is the de-realisation of our experiences at our level so as to awaken the inner divine illumination steadily present as the divine within us - and this means the acceptance of the world as tuccha, as asat, as unreal, a product of imaginative identity, that which is not the nisus, the goal, the Divine. This is the central aspect of the rationale for the theory of Oneness of the Divine, for the correlative theory of Maya of the visible reality of sense and desires other than the highest. Once this is grasped, it becomes possible to see that all religions in some measure evolve when affirming the reality of the worlds of their experience knowledge, and affirm their mixedness with delusion, illusion, passion, puerility, sorrow, pain and continuing precariousness and bondage.

So clearly is this seen in the lives of the saints. Yamunacarya the initiator of the Visistadvaita philosophy, and who inspired Sri Ramanuja, has sung that the real mother, father, relative and friend is all the One Godhead beyond compare. This transference of the centre of affection from the human parent to the divine is itself a significant result of the experiences of man with his relatives and all. However, this evolution of the individual towards discovery of that which is really the source as well as the worthwhile object of one’s love, service, dedication and freedom, is a fact that occurs only after a series of lives lived, and by living which it has been discovered that no individual soul can be that Object and that God alone is that Object. Mankind has worshipped parents, friends, kings and teachers too, but all have been found to fall below the standard. That which is the highest and the source of all these becomes the One object of worship and love and all.

Similarly, worshipping powers of nature, man has through a series of lives come to regard the absolute Transcendent Para as the Object of his service, devotion, love and union.

The ancient method of elimination of the imperfect as “not this” or “not that” which is sought after is equally operative in this field of unconscious, self-conscious, conscious and super-conscious rejection of the non-ultimate, or renunciation of the lower. But one seeks to discover in the higher that which is wanting in the lower, and yet not wanting in that in which the imperfect abounds.

Thus does Jnana become fuller and fuller, perfect and real.

Thus Swami Vivekananda, in giving the proper place to maya, reveals its double-edged condition, its presenting a value that is not ultimate and indeed diverting one from the Ultimate, and making enjoyment of its technique more important than its knowledge. The renunciation of enjoyment of what is seen or experienced is the first significant result of the concept of unreality that makes for the dawn of the true nature of what one has necessarily to seek.

As a philosophical or logical proposition maya is difficult to explain as the principle of man’s fall, and so has it been shown by the great acaryas opposed to it as a philosophical doctrine, though in practice these have not valued the world any the whit better. Swami Vivekananda, holding as he does both ends of knowledge-renunciation and religious experience, is able to restore to true proportions the play of logic, psychology and spiritual goal-nisus.