Silent Teachings and Sat-sang

Silent Teachings and Sat-sang
 From The Mahabharata
Anusasana Parva, Section XVII
Translated by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli
Upamanyu said: (Mahadeva) Thou art he who imparts
instruction in utter silence. Thou art he that observes
the vow of taciturny (for Thou instructest in silence).

Silent Teachings & Sat-sanga
By Sri Ramana Maharshi
Preamble by David Godman
Although Sri Ramana Maharshi was happy to give his verbal teachings to anyone who asked for them, he frequently pointed out that his ‘silent teachings’ were more direct and more powerful. These ‘silent teachings’ consisted of a spiritual force, which seemed to emanate from his form, a force so powerful that he considered it to be the most direct and important aspect of his teachings. Instead of giving out verbal instructions on how to control the mind, he effortlessly emitted a silent power, which automatically quietened the minds of everyone in his vicinity. The people who were attuned to this force report that they experienced it as a state of inner peace and well being; in some advanced devotees it even precipitated a direct experience of the Self.
This method of teaching has a long tradition in India, its most famous exponent being Dakshinamurti, a manifestation of Siva who brought four learned sages to an experience of the Self through the power of his silence. Sri Ramana frequently spoke of Dakshinamurti with great approval and his name crops up in many of his conversations.
This flow of power from the Guru can be received by anyone whose attention is focused on the Self or on the form of the Guru; distance is no impediment to its efficacy. This attention is often called Sat-sanga, which literally means ‘association with being’. Sri Ramana wholeheartedly encouraged this practice and frequently said that it was the most efficient way of bringing about a direct experience of the Self. Traditionally it involves being in the physical presence of one who has realised the Self, but Sri Ramana gave it a much wider definition. He said that the most important element in Sat-sang was the mental connection with the Guru; Sat-sang takes place not only in his presence but whenever and wherever one thinks of him.
Question: How can silence be so powerful?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: A realised one sends out waves of spiritual influence, which draw many people towards him. Yet he may sit in a cave and maintain complete silence. We may listen to lectures upon truth and come away with hardly any grasp of the subject, but to come into contact with a realised one, though he speaks nothing, will give much more grasp of the subject. He never needs to go out among the public. If necessary he can use others as instruments.
The Guru is the bestower of silence who reveals the light of Self-knowledge that shines as the residual reality. Spoken words are of no use whatsoever if the eyes of the Guru meet the eyes of the disciple.
Question: Why does not Bhagavan go about and preach the truth to the people at large?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: How do you know I am not doing it? Does preaching consist in mounting a platform and haranguing the people around? Preaching is simple communication of knowledge; it can really be done in silence only. What do you think of a man who listens to a sermon for an hour and goes away without having been impressed by it so as to change his life? Compare him with another, who sits in a holy presence and goes away after some time with his outlook on life totally changed. Which is the better, to preach loudly without effect or to sit silently sending out inner force?
Again, how does speech arise? First there is abstract knowledge. Out of this arises the ego, which in turn gives rise to thought, and thought to the spoken word. So the word is the great grandson of the original source. If the word can produce an effect, judge for yourself how much more powerful must be the preaching through silence.
Question: Does Bhagavan give diksha (initiation)?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Mouna (silence) is the best and the most potent diksha. That was practised by Sri Dakshinamurti. Initiation by touch, look, etc., are all of a lower order. Silent initiation changes the hearts of all.
Dakshinamurti observed silence when the disciples approached him. That is the highest form of initiation. It includes the other forms. There must be subject-object relationship established in the other diksha. First the subject must emanate and then the object. Unless these two are there how is the one to look at the other or touch him? Mouna diksha (silent initiation) is the most perfect; it comprises looking, touching. It will purify the individual in every way and establish him in the reality.
Questioner: Swami Vivekananda says that a spiritual Guru can transfer spirituality substantially to the disciple.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Is there a substance to be transferred? Transfer means eradication of the sense of being the disciple. The master does it. Not that the man was something at one time and metamorphosed later into another.
Question: Is not grace the gift of the Guru?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: God, grace and Guru are all synonymous and also eternal and immanent. Is not the Self already within? Is it for the Guru to bestow it by his look? If a Guru thinks so, he does not deserve the name.
The books say that there are so many kinds of diksha, initiation by hand, by touch, by eye, etc. They also say that the Guru makes some rites with fire, water, japa or mantra and calls such fantastic performances diksha, as if the disciple becomes ripe only after such processes are gone through by the guru.
If the individual is sought he is nowhere to be found. Such is the Guru. Such is Dakshinamurti. What did he do? He was silent when the disciples appeared before him. He maintained silence and the doubts of the disciples were dispelled, which means that they lost their individual identities. That is jnana (knowledge) and not all the verbiage usually associated with it.
Silence is the most potent form of work. However vast and emphatic the sastras (scriptures) may be they fail in their effect. The Guru is quiet and peace prevails in all. His silence is vaster and more emphatic than all the sastras put together. These questions arise because of the feeling that, having been here so long, heard so much, exerted so hard, one has not gained anything. The work proceeding within is not apparent; In fact the guru is always within you.
Question: Can the Guru’s silence really bring about advanced states of spiritual awareness?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: There is an old story, which demonstrates the power of the Guru’s silence. Tattvaraya composed a Bharani, a kind of poetic composition in Tamil, in honour of his Guru Swarupananda, and convened an assembly of learned Pandits (pundits) to hear the work and assess its value. The Pandits raised the objection that a Bharani was only composed in honour of great heroes capable of killing a thousand elephants in battle and that it was not in order to compose such a work in honour of an ascetic.
Thereupon the author said, "Let us all go to my Guru and we shall have this matter settled there."
They went to the Guru and, after they had all taken their seats, the author told his Guru the purpose of their visit. The Guru sat silent and all the others also remained in mouna (silence). The whole day passed, the night came, and some more days and nights, and yet all sat there silently, no thought at all occurring to any of them and nobody thinking or asking why they had come there. After three or four days like this, the Guru moved his mind a bit, and the people assembled immediately regained their thought activity. They then declared, ‘Conquering a thousand elephants is nothing beside this Guru’s power to conquer the rutting elephants of all our egos put together. So certainly he deserves the Bharani in his honour!
Question: How does this silent power work?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Language is only a medium for communicating one’s thoughts to another. It is called in only after thoughts arise. Other thoughts arise after the "I"-thought rises and so the "I"-thought is the root of all conversation. When one remains without thinking one understands another by menas of the universal language of silence.
Silence is ever speaking. It is a perennial flow of language, which is interrupted by speaking. These words I am speaking obstruct that mute language. For example, there is electricity flowing in a wire. With resistance to its passage, it glows as a lamp or revolves as a fan. In the wire it remains as electric energy. Similarly also, silence is the eternal flow of language, obstructed by words.
What one fails to know by conversation extending to several years can be known instantly in silence, or in front of silence. Dakshinamurti and his four disciples are a good example of this. This is the highest and most effective language.
Questioner: Bhagavan says, ‘The influence of the jnani (self-realised) steals into the devotee in silence.’ Bhagavan also says, ‘Contact with great men (mahatmas) is one efficacious means of realising one’s true being’.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes. What is the contradiction? Jnani, great men, Mahatmas- do you differentiate between them?
Questioner: No
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Contact with them is good. They will work through silence. By speaking their power is reduced. Silence is most powerful. Speech is always less powerful than silence, so mental contact is the best.
Question: Does this hold good even after the dissolution of the physical body of the jnani or is it true only so long as he is in flesh and blood?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Guru is not the physical form. So the contact will remain even after the physical form of the Guru vanishes. One can go to another Guru after one’s Guru passes away, but all Gurus are one and none of them is the form you see. Always mental contact is the best.
Question: Is the operation of grace the mind of the Guru acting on the mind of the disciple or is it a different process?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: The highest form of grace is silence. It is also the highest upadesa (teaching).
Questioner: Vivekananda has also said that silence is the loudest form of prayer.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: It is so for the seeker’s silence. The Guru’s silence is the loudest upadesa. It is also grace in its highest form. All other dikshas (initiations) are derived from Mouna (silence), and are therefore secondary. Mouna is the primary form. If the Guru is silent the seeker’s mind gets purified by itself.
Questioner: Sri Bhagavan’s silence is itself a powerful force. It brings about a certain peace of mind in us.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Silence is never-ending speech. Vocal speech obstructs the other speech of silence. In silence one is in intimate contact with the surroundings. The silence of Dakshinamurti removed the doubts of the four sages. Mouna Vyakhya Prakatita Tattvam means the truth expounded by silence. Silence is said to be exposition. Silence is so potent.
For vocal speech, organs of speech are necessary and they precede speech. But the other speech lies even beyond thought. It is in short transcendent speech or unspoken words (Para Vak).
Question: Can everyone benefit from this silence?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Silence is the true Upadesa (teachings). It is the perfect upadesa. It is suited only for the most advanced seeker. The others are unable to draw full inspiration from it. Therefore they require words to explain the truth. But truth is beyond words. It does not admit of explanation. All that it is possible to do is to indicate it.
Questioner: It is said that one look of a mahatma is enough, that idols, pilgrimages, etc., are not so effective. I have been here for three months, but I do not know how I have been benefited by the look of Maharshi.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: The look has a purifying effect.
Purification cannot be visualised. Just as a piece of coal takes a long time to be ignited, a piece of charcoal takes a shorter time, and a mass of gunpowder is instantaneously ignited, so it is with grades of men coming into contact with mahatmas. The fire of wisdom consumes all actions. Wisdom is acquired by association with the wise (Sat-sanga) or rather its mental atmosphere.
Question: Can the Guru’s silence bring about realisation if the disciple makes no effort?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: In the proximity of a great master, the Vasanas (subtle impressions that lead to desires) cease to be active, the mind becomes still and Samadhi results. Thus the disciple gains true knowledge and right experience in the presence of the master. To remain unshaken in it further efforts are necessary. Eventually the disciple will know it to be his real being and will thus be liberated even while alive.
Question: If the search has to be made within, is it necessary to be in the physical proximity of the Master?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: It is necessary to be so until all doubts are at an end.
Questioner: I am not able to concentrate by myself. I am in search of a force to help me.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes, that is called grace. Individually we are incapable because the mind is weak. Grace is necessary. Sadhu seva (serving a sadhu or a mendicant) will bring it about. There is however nothing new to get. Just as a weak man comes under the control of a stronger one, the weak mind of a man comes under control easily in the presence of strong minded sadhus. That which is only grace; there is nothing else.
Question: Is it necessary to serve the Guru physically?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: The Sastras (scriptures) say that one must serve a Guru for twelve years in order to attain
Self-realisation. What does the Guru do? Does he hand it over to the disciple? Is not the Self always realised? What does the common belief mean then? Man is always the Self and yet he does not know it. Instead he confounds it with the non-Self, the body, etc. Such confusion is due to ignorance. If ignorance is wiped out the confusion will cease to exist and the true knowledge will be unfolded. By remaining in contact with realised sages the man gradually loses the ignorance until its removal is complete. The eternal Self is thus revealed.
Questioner: You say that association with the wise (Sat-sanga) and service of them is required of the disciple.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes, the first really means association with the unmanifest Sat or absolute existence, but as very few can do that, they have to take second best which is association with the manifest Sat, that is, the Guru. Association with sages should be made because thoughts are so persistent. The sage has already overcome the mind and remains in peace. Being in his proximity helps to bring about this condition in others, otherwise there is no meaning in seeking his company. The guru provides the needed strength for this, unseen by others.
Service is primarily to abide in the Self, but it also includes making the Guru’s body comfortable and looking after his place of abode. Contact with the Guru is also necessary, but this means spiritual contact. If the disciple finds the Guru internally, then it does not matter where he goes. Staying here or elsewhere must be understood to be the same and to have the same effect.
Question: My profession requires me to stay near my place of work. I cannot remain in the vicinity of sadhus. Can I have realisation even in the absence of sat-sanga?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Sat is Aham Pratyaya Saram, the Self of selves. The sadhu is that Self of selves. He is immanent in all. Can anyone remain without the Self? No. So no one is away from sat-sanga.
Question: Is proximity to the Guru helpful?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Do you mean physical proximity?
What is the good of it? The mind alone matters. The mind must be contacted. Sat-sanga will make the mind sink into the Heart.
Such associations both mental and physical. The extremely visible being of the Guru pushes the mind inward. He is also in the Heart of the seeker and so draws the latter’s inward-bent mind into the Heart.
Questioner: All that I want to know is whether sat-sanga is necessary and whether my coming here will help me or not.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: First you must decide what is sat-sanga. It means association with Sat or Reality. One who knows or has realised Sat is also regarded as Sat. Such association with Sat or with one who knows Sat is absolutely necessary for all. Sankara has said that in all the three worlds there is no boat like sat-sanga to carry one safely across the ocean of births and deaths.
Sat-sanga means sanga (association) with Sat. Sat is only the Self. Since the Self is not now understood to be Sat, the company of the sage who has thus understood it is sought.
That is Sat-sanga. Introversion results. Then Sat is revealed.
[Note: The following quotation gives an indication of the power of sat-sanga. It consists of five stray Sanskrit verses that Sri Ramana came across at various times. He was so impressed by their contents that he translated them into Tamil and incorporated them in Ulladu Narpadu Anubandham, one of his own written works which deals with the nature of reality.]
  1. If one gains association with sadhus, of what use are all the religious observances (niyamas)? When the excellent cool southern breeze itself is blowing, what is the use of holding a hand fan?
  2. Sacred bathing places, that are composed of water, and images and deities, which are made of stone and earth, cannot be comparable to those great souls (mahatmas).
    Ah, what a wonder! The bathing places and deities bestow purity of mind after countless days, whereas such purity is instantly bestowed upon people as soon as sadhus see them with their eyes.
  3. Heat will be removed by the cool moon, poverty by the celestial wish-fulfilling tree and sin by the Ganges. But know that all these, beginning with heat, will be removed merely by having darshan (sight) of incomparable sadhus.
  4. The supreme state which is praised and which is attained here in this life by clear vichara, which arises in the Heart when association with a sadhu (a noble person or one who has realised the Self) is gained, is impossible to attain by listening to preachers, by studying and learning the meaning of the scriptures, by virtuous deeds or by any other means.
By sat-sanga the association with the objects of the world will be removed. When that worldly association is removed the attachment or tendencies of the mind will be destroyed. Those who are devoid of mental attachment will perish in that which is motionless. Thus they attain Jivan Mukti (liberation). Cherish their association.

From Kapilopadesha   V.20-27
Translated by and comments by
Swami Tapasyananda, Advaita Ashram

Image Worship versus Seeing God in All
I abide in all beings as their innermost soul. Disregarding My presence within them, men make a show of worshipping Me through images.  21.
If one disregards Me present in all as their soul and Lord but ignorantly offers worship only to images, such worship is as ineffectual as sacrificial offerings made in ashes.  22.
A man who persecutes (others, not realising that ) I am   residing in others, who is proud and haughty, who looks upon God as the other - such a person will never attain to peace of mind.  23.
If a man disregards and persecutes fellow beings, but worships Me in images with numerous rituals and rich offerings, I am not at all pleased with him for proffering such worship. 24
A man should, however, worship me in images, side by side with discharging his duties, which include the love of all beings, until he actually realises My presence in himself and in all beings. 25.
As long as man is self-centred and makes an absolute distinction between himself and others (without recognising the unity of all in Me, the Inner-Pervader), he will be subject to the great fear of death (including every form of deprivation of self-interest). 26.
So overcoming the separativeness of a self-centred life, one should serve all beings with gifts, honour, and love, recognising that such service is really being rendered to Me who reside in all beings as their innermost soul. 27.
[Note:Comments by Swami Tapasyananda:
Verses 21-27 are of very great practical importance. They inculcate the healthy habit that while a devotee worships God through images and other symbols, he should not forget that God's real presence is in the hearts of living creatures, and all external worship through symbols is only a means to realise His presence within all. So service to all beings with the consciousness that such service is worship of God, should always accompany his worship in images. If this is not done, image worship is ineffective and degenerates into hypocrisy. At the same time, until man has come to realise God's real presence in all, he should also practise worship of God in images and not look down upon such practice as meaningless ritualism. Image worship is full of meaning, as it is the stepping stone to higher realisation, if practised with sincerity and proper understanding

By Swami Nikhilananda
Sri Ramakrishna Math

The Upanishads abound in symbolic representations of Brahman and Atman. What is the meaning of a symbol?  It is a visible sign of an invisible entity.  The Sanskrit words generally used for "symbol" are pratika and pratima. Some of the important symbol of Brahman are prana (the vital breath), vayu (wind), akasha (space), manas (mind), aditya (the sun), and Om.
A pratima or image as seen in the popular religions, is also a symbol of the Godhead. Beginners, with their restricted understanding, need a symbol in order to contemplate the Highest. Thus a Cross, an Ark, a Crescent, a statue, a book, fire, and temples have all been used as so many symbols. In the minds of the unworthy a symbol often degenerates into an idol which is worshipped: to worship a God through a symbol is a legitimate means of divine communion. In the one case the Godhead is brought down to the level of a material object; in the other case, the image itself is spiritualised.
The Upanishads stress the method of knowledge more than that of formal worship. The Truth is to be realised by hearing about It, from a qualified teacher, reasoning about It in one's own mind, and lastly by contemplating It.

The Manner of Worshipping the Deity
From Yogavaasishtha Chapter 22(extracts)
Compiled by Sri Jnanananda Bharati
Translation by Samvid

For those who have not known the essential nature of Deity, the worship of form and the like has been prescribed. To one who is incapable of (travelling) a distance of one Yojana (eight miles), a distance of one Krosa (two miles) is provided.
Verse 19.

Know that as the worship of the Deity in which the Divine Self is worshipped by the flowers of tranquillity, knowledge and the like. Worship of the form is not worship. Verse 20.
The worship with flowers and the like is laid down (in the scriptures) only in the absence of tranquillity, perception (or knowledge) and similar virtues. Verse 20.
Pure intelligence (or Consciousness) which is beyond all parts (or fragmentation) and which is of the nature of the generality of Existence, attaining to the nature of vast Existence (or the totality of Being) is described by the word ‘Deva’ (or Deity). Verse 21.
(That Pure Consciousness) gradually moved by the splendour of the energies of space, time and the like, having become the Jeeva (individual soul or individualised consciousness), soon becomes the Buddhi (the intellect). Thereafter (it becomes) the sense of "I". Then attaining to the state of the mind, it clings to worldly existence. Verses 22-23.
This (Pure Consciousness) experiences sorrow, abiding in the body, due to the idea of "I am". This unhappiness that has come, nourished by mere imagination is destroyed only by the absence of imagination (or thought). There is no doubt in this matter. Verse 24.
Warding off the turbidness of your own imagination by yourself and having reached the highest clearness (or serenity) of the Self, be supremely happy. Verses 25-26.
The Self is indeed full of all powers (or energies). He accomplishes everything thoroughly. He is the Deity. He is also the highest. He is always worthy of worship by the wise (or virtuous ones). Verses 26-27.
His worship is only meditation within. Nothing else is (His) worship. Therefore, let one worship Him, who is eternal, who is the support of the three worlds, who is of the nature of Pure Consciousness, who shines like a hundred-thousand suns and who illuminates all appearances, by meditation. Verses 27-28.
His Powers like Will, should be contemplated as residing in the body. He is infinite, the Supreme support (of everything), one who has Pure Existence as His only form, and who has turned round (or unfolded) the web (or net) of the world. Time is His gatekeeper. Verses 29-30.
Having contemplated the Divine Lord as possessing abundantly the power of seeing everywhere, having the power of smell on all sides, endowed with the sense of touch everywhere, possessed of taste all round, full of sense of hearing everywhere, endowed with thinking everywhere, beyond thinking (or cognition) all round and the Supreme Bliss (or auspiciousness) everywhere, let one worship Him then, according to rules. Verses 30-32.
This Deity who is of the nature of one’s own Consciousness is not worshipped by (ceremonial) offerings. He is worshipped by one’s own perception (or knowledge) which is always obtainable without trouble. Verse 33.
This is called the highest external worship of the Self. Now I shall describe the internal worship of the Self. Verse 34.
[Note: The contemplation and worship described in verses 28 to 32 is referred to as the highest form of external worship.]
Let one meditate on this Supreme Spirit (or Siva) who is ever abiding in the body. Let him consider this splendour of Pure Consciousness in his own body as the Deity. Verse 35.
Let him disregard whatever is lost and receive (or accept) whatever has arrived, disinterestedly. This indeed is the highest worship of the Self. Verse 36.
Having resolved that everything is Brahman (the Supreme Spirit), let one practise the religious vow (or austerity) of worship of the Eternal Self. In this mode of worship of the Self, whatever auspicious materials are prescribed (for worship in general), these are conceived solely by the sentiment of tranquillity. Verses 37-38.
The Self is not comprehended (or perceived) by scriptural precepts; nor by the words of the Guru (or spiritual guide). It is perceived by itself on account of one’s knowledge (or awareness) spontaneously. (However), the Self is not perceived without the teachings of the spiritual guide and scriptural precepts. The existence of the combination of these two alone is the manifester of the knowledge of one’s own Self. Verses 38-40.
[Note: The import of the above verses is that scriptures and the guru can only show the way. It is the spiritual aspirant who has to arrive at enlightenment by his own investigation and meditation.]
One who ever performs thus the worship of the Deity, absorbed in it, he attains to that Supreme abode where (even) people like us are servants. Verses 40-41.

The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi
Question: I have faith in Murti Dhyana (worship of form). Will it not help me to gain Jnana (knowledge)?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Surely it will. Upasana (meditation) helps concentration of mind. Then the mind is free from other thoughts and is full of the meditated form. The mind then becomes one with the object of meditation, and this makes it quite pure. Then think who is the worshipper. The answer is ‘I’, that is the Self. In this way the Self is ultimately gained.
Worshipping the formless reality by unthought thought is the best kind of worship. But when one is not fit for such formless worship of God, worship of form alone is suitable. Formless worship is possible only for people who are devoid of the ego-form. Know that all the worship done by people who possess the ego-form is only worship of form.
The pure state of being attached to grace (Self), which is devoid of any attachment, alone, is one’s own state of silence, which is devoid of any other thing. Know that one’s ever abiding as that silence, having experienced it as it is, alone is true mental worship (Manasik-Puja). Know that the performance of the unceasing true and natural worship in which the mind is submissively established as the one Self, having installed the Lord on the Heart-throne, is silence, the best of all forms of worship. Silence, which is devoid of the assertive ego, alone, is liberation. The evil forgetfulness of Self, which causes one to slip down from that silence, alone, is non-devotion (Vibhakti). Know that abiding as that silence with the mind subsided as non-different from Self, is the truth of Siva Bhakti (devotion to God).
When one has completely surrendered oneself at the feet of Siva, thereby becoming of the nature of the Self, the resulting abundant peace, in which there is not even the least room within the Heart for one to make any complaint about one’s defects and deficiencies, alone is the nature of supreme devotion. One’s thus becoming a slave to the Lord and one’s remaining quiet and silent, devoid even of the egotistical thought ‘I’ am His slave’, is Self-abidance, and this is the Supreme Knowledge.

Question: Was there a specific founder of
the religion (Hinduism?)
Hinduism cannot be described as an organized religion. It is not founded by any individual. Hinduism is God centred and therefore one can call Hinduism as founded by God, because the answer to the question ‘Who is behind the eternal principles and who makes them work?’ will have to be ‘Cosmic power, Divine power, God’
Swami Vivekananda wrote:
There are these eternal principles, which stand upon their own foundations without depending on any reasoning, even much less on the authority of sages however great, of Incarnations however brilliant they may have been. We may remark that as this is the unique position in India, our claim is that the Vedanta only can be the universal religion, that it is already the existing universal religion in the world, because it teaches principles and not persons.
[The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, III,
Topic 'The Sages of India']
Swami Vivekananda wrote:
If you want to be religious, enter not the gate of any organised religion. They do a hundred times more evil than good, because they stop the growth of each one's individual development.... Religion is only between you and your God, and no third person must come between you. Think what these organised religions have done! What Nepoleon was more terrible than those religious persecutions? If you and I organise, we begin to hate every person . It is better not to love, if loving only means hating others. That is no love. That is hell! If loving your own people means hating everybody else, it is the quintessence of selfishness and brutality, and the effect is that it will make you brutes.
-The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume I,
Topic 'The Gita III']
Swami Vivekananda wrote:
Truth is of two kinds: (1) that which is cognisable by the five ordinary senses of man, and by reasonings based thereon; (2) that which is cognisable by the subtle, super-sensuous power of Yoga.
Knowledge acquired by the first means is called science; and knowledge acquired by the second is called the Vedas.
The whole body of super sensuous truths, having no beginning or end, and called by the name of Vedas, is ever existent. The Creator Himself is creating, preserving and destroying the universe with the help of these truths.
The person in whom this super-sensuous power is manifested is called a Rishi, and the super-sensuous truths, which he realises by this power, are called the Vedas.
This Rishihood, this power of super-sensuous perception of the Vedas, is real religion. And so long as this does not develop in the life of an initiate, so long is religion a mere empty word to him, and it is to be understood that he has not taken yet the first step in religion.
The authority of the Vedas extends to all ages, climes and persons; that is to say, their application is not confined to any particular place, time and persons.
The Vedas are the only exponent of the universal religion.
Hinduism is God centred. Other religions are prophet centred.
Question: How did Hinduism start and when did it begin?
Hinduism is God centred. Other religions are prophet centred.
Hinduism is based upon Eternal Principles. Eternal principles apply to all human beings everywhere. The laws of physics exist and work all the time. The healing principle will get to work immediately the moment a little cut is sustained on a finger. No one can tell when this healing principle began or when it will end. It is there existing eternally, all pervading (available everywhere), omniscient (aware all the time and therefore healing principle gets to work when injury is sustained). (These simplified examples serve to understand God’s power: omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent).
Hinduism is based upon Eternal Principles. If a great scientist like Einstein, discovered or realized laws of physics, Hinduism would call him a great Rishi (Maharshi or seer of truth.) Such seers of truth are not confined to any one age or country. Self realized persons like Jesus Christ would be called Rishis (seers) and their teachings would be readily acceptable to those who properly understand the principles of ‘Hinduism’. From the ancient times, many great Rishis achieved self-realisation through such practices as meditation and austerities and they realised knowledge concerning Eternal Principles. Their knowledge, taught to disciples, and eventually made available in written form, is known as the Vedas (Ved = knowledge), the scriptures upon which Sanatan Dharma (Hinduism) is based. Sanatan means eternal and Dharma means religion.
The word 'Hinduism ‘ does not appear anywhere in Hindu scriptures, The proper name for Hinduism is ‘Sanatan Dharma’      Sanatan = eternal  Dharma = religion.
Hinduism is God centred whereas other religions are prophet centred. For this reason the whole of mankind has to abide by (or is affected by) the eternal principles. The question of acceptance or rejection of Hinduism by any individual simply does not arise, or is irrelevant. It is illogical to talk of conversion to Hinduism. It is like saying that the laws of physics (e.g.gravity) will apply to you only if you belong to an organization or organized religion.
[The ceremonies and rituals connected with Hinduism   (and other religions) are designed to cultivate increased spirituality. At advanced level of spirituality, rituals and ceremonies are dispensed with]
Sri Madhusudana Sarasvati Wrote:
(Commentary Gita Ch.3, Shloka 16)
But he who has realised the Spreme Entity and does not derive pleasure from the senses, he on account of being self-fulfilled, does not incur sin even by not performing the rites which are thus the cause of the movement of the Wheel of the World.
From Brahadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.10:
Even the gods cannot prevail against him (he who has realised the Spreme Entity). There need be no performance of any action even in the form of worship of gods for averting obstacles
Gita Ch. 3 Shloka 17:
The Blessed Lord said: But that man who rejoices only in the Self and is satisfied (only) with the Self, and is contended only in the Self - for him there is no duty to perform
Swami Vivekananda wrote:
  [The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, III,
   Topic 'The Sages of India']
The very fountain-head of our religion is in the Vedas (Srutis) which are perfectly impersonal; the persons all come in the Smritis and Puranas- the great Avataras, Incarnations of God, Prophets, and so forth.
[Note: Srutis means revealed knowledge; Smriti means memory, history]
And this ought also to be observed that except our religion (Sanatan Dharma; Hinduism), every other religion in the world depends upon the lives of some personal founder or founders. Christianity is built upon the life of Jesus Christ, Mohammedanism (Islam) upon Mohammed, Buddhism upon Buddha, Jainism upon the Jinas, and so on. It naturally follows that there must be in all these religions a good deal of fight about what they call the historical evidences of these great personalities.
If at any time the historical evidences about the existence of these personages in ancient times become weak, the whole building of the religion tumbles down and is broken to pieces. We escaped this fate because our religion is not based upon persons but on principles. That you obey your religion is not because it came through the authority of a sage, no, not even of an Incarnation. Krishna is not the authority of the Vedas, but the Vedas are the authority of Krishna himself. His glory is that he is the greatest preacher of the Vedas that ever existed.
So with the other Incarnations; so with all our sages. Our first principle is that all that is necessary for the perfection of man and for attaining unto freedom is there in the Vedas. You cannot find anything new. You cannot go beyond a perfect unity, which is the goal of all knowledge; this has been already reached there, and it is impossible to go beyond the unity. Religious knowledge became complete when Tat Twam Asi (Thou art That) was discovered, and that was in the Vedas.
What remained was the guidance of people from time to time according to different times and places, according to different circumstances and environments. People had to be guided along the old, old path and for this these great teachers came, these great sages. Nothing can bear out more clearly this position than the celebrated saying of Sri Krishna in the Gita : "Whenever virtue subsides and irreligion prevails, I create Myself for the protection of the good; for the destruction of all immorality I am coming from time to time."
What follows? That on the one hand, there are these eternal principles, which stand upon their own foundations without depending on any reasoning, even much less on the authority of sages however great, of Incarnations however brilliant they may have been. We may remark that as this is the unique position in India, our claim is that the Vedanta only can be the universal religion, that it is already the existing universal religion in the world, because it teaches principles and not persons
No religion built upon a person can be taken up as a type by all the races of mankind. In our own country we find that there have been so many grand characters; even in a small city many persons are taken up as types by the different minds in that one city. How is it possible that one person as Mohammed, or Buddha or Christ, can be taken up as the one type for the whole world, nay, that the whole of morality, ethics, spirituality, and religion can be true only from the sanction of that one person, and one person alone?
Now the Vedantic religion does not require any such personal authority. Its sanction is the eternal nature of man, its ethics are based upon the eternal solidarity of man, already existing, already attained and not to be attained.
The Hindu can worship any sage and any saint from any country whatsoever, and as a fact we know that we go and worship many times in the churches of the Christians, and many times in the Mohammedan mosques and that is good. Why not? Ours, as I have said, is the universal religion. It is inclusive enough, it is broad enough to include all the ideals. All the ideals of religion that already exist in the world can be immediately included, and we can patiently wait for all the ideals that are to come in the future to be taken in the same fashion, embraced in the infinite arms of the religion of the Vedanta.

Question: What is the most important part of the religion?
[Note: Different scholars may emphasize other aspects
of the religion as the most important part]
The affirmative attitude of Hinduism toward life
has been emphasized by its recognition of four
legitimate and basic desires:
1. Dharma or righteousness
2. Artha or wealth
3. Kama or sense pleasure
4. Moksha or freedom through communion with God
  or the Infinite.
These four attainments of life are collectively known as Purushartha.

Question: Why?
[Note: Reply based upon the teachings of Swami Nikhilananda, Ramakrishna Math]
Of the four grand objects of human aspirations (Purushartha), viz., Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha, Dharma is given the foremost rank in the scriptures. Dharma alone is the gateway to Moksha, to immortality, infinite bliss, supreme peace and highest knowledge. Dharma alone is the primary Purushartha. Dharma is the first and foremost Purushartha.
Dharma is the cementer and sustainer of social life. The rules of Dharma have been laid down for regulating the worldly affairs of men. Dharma brings as its consequence happiness, both in this world and in the next. Dharma is the means of preserving one’s self. If you transgress it, it will kill you. If you protect it, it will protect you. It is your sole companion after death. It is the sole refuge of humanity.
[Note: Dharma (roughly translated as righteousness or virtue, must be at the center and at the circumference are Artha (wealth), Kama (all kinds of desires or pleasures), and Moksha (liberation).  All activities in life must revolve around Dharma. Dharma must be kept in focus all the time and adhered to.]
The following is from page 'Ideal behind the idol'
There is no polytheism in India
By Swami Vivekananda
The foremost disciple of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa
Descend we now from the aspirations of philosophy to the religion of the ignorant. At the very outset, I may tell you that there is no polytheism in India. In every temple, if one stands by and listens, one will find the worshippers applying all the attributes of God, including omnipresence, to the images. It is not polytheism, nor would the name henotheism explain the situation. "The rose called by any other name would smell as sweet." Names are not explanations.

In the Mahabharata it is described as the ‘Four Orders of Human Beings’.
There is no country on earth where the four orders of human beings do not exist.
1.Teachers (at schools, colleges and universities) and spiritual leaders (priests, Imams, Rabbi, Pandit)
2. Government, judiciary, law-enforcement agencies and the defence force.
Ministers, civil servants, military, soldiers, police (Kshatriyas)
3.Food producers & Wealth producers.
Farmers, industrialists, merchants, business people, professionals (doctors, lawyers, architects, engineers, etc)
4. Labourers
"The four orders of human beings" refers to the whole of mankind and is not confined to any one country, or any one race group. We usually associate 'the four orders of human beings' with India (where it is generally known as the caste system, often misunderstood, misused or abused).
Consider for a moment an imaginary scenario where from the map of the world India is made invisible. Now apply the principle of 'the four orders of human beings' to all the countries in the world. Not one country will be found where this principle is not made applicable.
Imagine again that in a given country, all the men, women and able-bodied youths decide to join the defence force of the country (claiming equality amongst all human beings). They are all sitting pretty with a rifle in hand waiting for the enemy to show up.
Who will do the cooking to feed this defence force? What about tilling the land to grow the food to feed this defence force, and who will wash the clothes? If during war situation the wounded have to be operated upon, who will teach how to perform surgery? The maintenance of general cleanliness, removal of garbage etc. will have to be done by whom? The young boys and girls will remain uneducated because the whole population is sitting pretty with a rifle in hand waiting for the enemy to show up. Who will run the schools?
There are no industries, no labour force, no business community, because there are no 'four orders of human beings'. Without the division of labour, there is no human progress. Witness the crippling results of any general strike, by the workers of any vital industry, when such strike is sustained over a lengthy period. Such action can cripple any country.
Let all the countries legislate that as from next month no human beings on this earth will perform the task of  labourers (claiming that it is beneath human dignity and that all human beings are equal). What is stopping any country from enacting such legislation?
If a labourer wins a lottery for ten million dollars, will he, thereafter, voluntarily remain a labourer? Labourers in this world are not labourers by choice.
Now the big question is: who can decide who is to be the labourer and who is to be the professor to teach at the medical college? Who will decide that? The division of labour, which broadly falls into 'the four orders of human beings' is based upon "guna and karma" of each individual. The word 'guna' in Vedanta means Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas (the three qualities born of Nature also known as "prakriti).
To say that we should abolish the four orders of human beings (the caste system) also amounts to saying that the authority of the scriptures is to be brushed aside and substituted by some modern day thinker who argues that "In this day and age" the eternal principles do not apply. Consider the following extracts from the Bhagavad Gita:
Bhagavad Gita, Ch.4, Verse 13: the Lord says:
"The fourfold caste has been created by Me according to the differentiation of Guna and Karma;"
Bhagavad Gita, Ch.18, verse 40 the Lord says:
"There is no being on earth, or again in heaven among the
gods, that is liberated from the three qualities born of Nature."
 Gita Ch.18, verse.41:
"Of Brahmanas, Kshtriyas and Vaishyas, as also the Sudras, O Arjuna, the duties are distributed according to the qualities born of their own nature."
 If we look at newly born human babies, we can see their physical features. Can we see in them the potential of the future Beethoven, Michelangelo, Einstein, a great saint or a common criminal? One baby may be endowed by nature with artistic abilities and another with musical talent, and yet another may be devoid of both these attributes. These are qualities born of nature. Human efforts can complement these qualities or attributes as when a teacher guides and inspires a pupil to achieve greater heights in a chosen field.
When those babies grow up, their careers are distributed according to the qualities born of their own nature. The four orders of human beings are based upon "qualities born of their own nature.
In a maternity hospital, can we draw lots from a hat and fasten a tag on baby numbered one as the future labourer, the second baby as the future industrialist, the third baby as the future army commander, the fourth baby as the future college professor and the fifth baby as the future common criminal?   Obviously not. The situation or the station in life for the individual will be determined by "qualities born of their own nature". These fundamental principles apply to all without geographical boundaries.
The eternal principles apply to all . One does not have to subscribe to a system of belief or carry the banner of any religion to include or exclude the application of eternal principles.
Reply: A hundred Dollar currency note is much smaller than the Sunday newspaper. The newspaper would be discarded within a few days. Why attach so much more importance to a much smaller piece of paper that is called a hundred Dollar note? After all both the newspaper and the currency note are pieces of paper. The image on the currency note makes it different. The image attaches to the paper ( currency note) values, qualities, awe (if it is a million Dollar note), etc. Power of the human consciousness is transmitted to the currency note. An atheist who decries the use of images can empty his wallet of all the Dollar notes and send them to us.
I can pull out a handkerchief from my pocket, blow my nose into it and then ask an audience to salute my handkerchief. Why salute the flag of the nation and not my handkerchief? After all both the handkerchief and the flag are inanimate pieces of cloth! I can hear the patriot saying that he is prepared to lay down his life for his nation's flag. Why would he not do the same for my handkerchief? Power of the human consciousness is transmitted to the piece of cloth we call a national flag whereby the inanimate piece of cloth acquires qualities of patriotism, noble values, pride, loyalty, identity etc.
If a stranger were to spit on your mother's photo, why would you feel hurt? After all it is only a piece of paper with dots that are lighter or darker, giving an image or  resemblance of the face of mother. This piece of paper has acquired the ability to make you angry or happy, or sad or fill you with memories and inspiration. An inanimate piece of paper infused with such powers!
My mother scribbled three or four lines on a piece of paper and sent it off to me. Another gentleman sent me a long discursive fifty page letter.   Now, which is more weighty?  But the feeling in my mother's few lines is beyond measure; it is sacred.  The other stuff cannot stand comparison with it.
-Saint Vinoba Bhave
The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem is revered by the Jewish community. Why kiss the wall and why does it invoke feelings of reverence? Inanimate stones or bricks! Power of human consciousness is attached to it. A photograph of the wall (image) would invoke reverence and respect for the piece of paper upon which it is printed.
Islam: Pilgrims to Mecca throw stones at the three pillars that are infused with the images of devils!
And why kiss the stone of Kaaba? And if someone were to spit upon this stone of Kaaba, why would it invoke and provoke angry reactions?   After all that is only a piece of stone! Muslim pilgrims visiting the Kaaba temple go around it seven times. Any pilgrim going to a place of pilgrimage does so with the utmost worshipful attitude of the mind. Why the display of reverence and the worshipful attitude towards the stone of Kaaba? After all the stone of Kaaba is an inanimate object.
A sacred fount exists near the Kaaba. Its water is held sacred because it has been traditionally regarded as sacred like the waters of the river Ganges since pre-Islamic times (Zam-Zam water). Even today, Muslim pilgrims who go to the Kaaba for Haj regard this Zam-Zam water with reverence and take some bottled water with them as sacred water.
Chemically speaking, water is water. What is the difference between this Zam-Zam water and the water that flows downstream from some nearby mountains?
Christianity: The Cross of Christianity is a piece of wood or metal or stone. Why do worshippers bow their heads before such image that is made of inanimate materials?
The qualifications at a university college are proudly hung on the wall for all to see. A piece of paper, framed and attracting such high esteem! If you think that the use of image is not universal then make sure you remove that inanimate piece of paper (certifications) and promptly consign that to the garbage can

Om Tat Sat

(My humble salutations to Swamy Vivekananda, Sri Ramana Maharshi, Swamy Nikhilananda and  Brahmasri Sreeman K M Ganguly   for the collection)


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