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Hinduism - The Key Note Of Humanity

( Originally Published 1916 )

THE religion of the Hindu has no definition. His God has a thousand names. He does not call Him simply " God. He clothes his God in all the rainbow beauty of his infinite nature. The Persians say that Jemâl, the grace of God, is greater than Jelâl, the glory of God. So the infinite sweetness and beauty of the Love of God that knows no barriers and no limitations, is what the Hindu loves to dwell upon. His God comes to him in a thousand ways. When He comes as the " One who destroys all trouble," He is " Durga — Mother Durga." When as " He who steals our sins," He is " Hari." When as the " Giver of knowledge," He is " Saraswati." Because He loves His own so much, He has given to them a thousand different ways of finding His love. All the universe is His instrument to call the heart of man into His heart. The Hindu understands this, and his systems, his schools, his cults, are only his thousand different ways of training himself to hear this call. In fact, according to the Hindu's ideal of spirituality, each individual has a school of his own wherein he is trained and trains himself. As Varuna said to his son, " Go and meditate," so that is to the Hindu the very foundation of his school of spirituality. Meditation is his groundwork. From childhood the Hindu is brought up in that atmosphere, and it becomes his very life and breath. Even in the greatest turmoil, he will retire for a moment to fix his mind and feel the dew of God's presence in the cares of earth. As his religion is not bounded by any creed, it is progressive, and as it is an integral part of his everyday life, he will realise his God in his life through any and every symbol, seen and unseen.

The most important thing which the Hindu has demonstrated is that he is not the servant of the universe, but the universe is his own kith and kin in closest relation. He addresses it as his brother. The stars and moon, the morning sun and the evening sky, the flowers and the trees and the fruits of the garden, the waters of the rivers, the high hills and the dewdrops; each and all manifest to him the expression of his Beloved. The vegetable world and the animal world all are to him full of Life. He tries to see and realise Life — Life — Life everywhere. And he has developed a wonderful school for this realisation of Life. There is a great difference between intellectual realisation and spiritual realisation. It is easy, very easy, to commit to memory all the books of the New Testament, but very hard to realise the teachings in one's life. So the Hindu lias dis-carded from the very beginning any forced book or particular scripture. There are various books in which his ideal has been represented, but the books alone have never captured him.

So whenever you go to a Hindu home you will see that. from morning till late at night, there is something going on in his house through which he realises his ideal in God.

He will rise up early in the morning to have a deep plunge in the river and utter the mantras in which he will say, " Let all the waters of the Motherland enter my soul." He will then adore the spirit behind the sun, the " Outer Eye of the Deity." With folded hands full of flowers and water, he prays, " O Thou Parent of the Three Worlds, I meditate upon Thy power divine which directs my intelligence." From his own garden or the garden of his neighbour, where he has free access, he culls flowers and performs his pujas in the way in which he has been initiated. He will then, perhaps, go to his business, and will start his business with the name of God. He will offer his prayers there, in his shop, and those prayers are not only weekly but everyday. When he eats he will say prayers before his food. In the evening he may once more have his bath in the river, and spend some time either on the river-bank under the stars or in some secluded place in prayer and meditation. Or he will go to some place where the scriptures are being expounded. There he will not be alone. People of all castes there mingle, men and women, children also.

The Hindu has special days in every week when he will feed Brahmins and other caste people, and by so doing feels that he is feeding humanity. He feeds the lower animals, the birds of the air, with the same ideal, the oneness of all life. He has his particular days when he will feed his friends, particular days when he will feed those against whom he may feel any enmity, thus trying to transcend all limitations. He has certain days when he observes the stars and learns their lessons. He has certain times of the year when he will go to different places of pilgrimage. The first-fruits of the year and flowers of his garden at the first blossoming he will give to his Deity, then to his neighbours; to those first who are respected for their spirituality, recognising spiritual superiority not class superiority. When he digs a tank he will dedicate it in the name of God for the benefit of the people. If his father or mother dies, he will spend all his time in meditation, reading his religious books and doing no other work. This particularly for ten or fifteen days or a month, and to a certain extent for about a year. During this time he will never use any bed which is in any way comfortable. He will sleep on a simple blanket spread on the floor. He will not use any cushions. He will make his arms his cushions. He goes through the severest austerity, cooking his own food, eating but once a day. He will not go to any place alone, so that he may be always watched that he keep his bratas (vows). Thus and in a thousand other ways the Hindu disciplines himself that he may harmonise his life with the All-life, and understand all Humanity.

It has been said that Hindus quarrel and fight against each other. It is purely an invention. The ideal which the Hindu 'has conceived and which he has demonstrated in his land is not only the basic principle for the federation of individuals, but for the federation of nations. Individualism to a Hindu is a reality, a reality in which he realises that he is man, but he is also more than man. He is the greatest individual who loses himself in the life of others. All life is one. All religions are one. The Hindu does not care to know whether you are are a Christian or Mohammedan, Jew or Gentile. If you come in contact with him, he will try to compare notes with you ; he will try to understand you and to gather from you the open and secret ways in which you try to realise God. He has not cared very much to know the census report of the world; whether there are five hundred millions of Christians or Buddhists, and whether the number of any people may be falling off or increasing. The chief reason for this is that he has not been able to accept any book as the spiritual source of his religion. He reveres the scripture of every nation as necessary for the evolution of mankind; but his religion is an inner experience. It has no creed. The followers of creed want to proselytise and to convert, and they take the measure of their credal religion as if taking a census. They are anxious to know how many thousands and millions of people there are who belong to their creed. That is the drawback of the exclusive religion. The moment you bring division between creed and creed, there no longer remains the spirit of Oneness. In forming a brotherhood of their own fellow-thinkers, they neglect a world of brothers. They think their note is the only note which should be sung and heard. They do not even imagine that there are other notes in the world. That is why it is so difficult for credal-religionists to understand Hinduism.

Hinduism is not the name of a religion. It is the name of a spiritual culture which the Indo-Aryans evolved, on the heights of the Himalayas and the plains of Bengal, in the hills and valleys of the Deccan and under the starlit skies of Rajputana; which the whole nation throughout the vast continent of India has developed through its various disciplines.

The places of pilgrimage are the books which our men and women read and study. Our family is the cradle where we grow in communism, and from this communism in the family the Hindu race has developed a larger communism. When you help others you help yourself. It is the self of the other that is your own self. So whenever we help others, we must not think that we have done a duty, but that we have helped our own selves.

Even in this materialistic civilisation, the Hindu has not forgotten the basis of his love. He has seen his own self in the self of others. He has so idealised that self-identification that there are certains cults, the followers of which when they come to any house and knock at the door, if from within it is asked, " Who are you? " reply, " It is thyself." This is in truth the kernel of Hindu brotherhood. Herein lies the true freedom, the freedom of the soul.

To this freedom religion does not profess to follow one path; it does not profess to follow one creed. Our religion says, " Many are the paths." The human mind is a continuous growth. It cannot be hedged in by creed or dogma. What is necessary for a child is not necessary for a man. From the beginning this is the great note in the development of the Hindu's ideal. A credal religion may tell you to realise God, but it does not tell you how. As each and every human face is different from the other, so the process of development for X is different from that of Y. What is necessary for X is not necessary for Y. Certain things may be common to many individuals, but each individual has a school of his own and in that school alone he must be trained. Such training has been impressed upon our race through the Ashrama life where each stage is preparatory to the other, culminating in the ideal of the Sanyasin —one with all Humanity.

This is the universal ideal for the human race. Not one faith, but a federation of faiths. Not one ideal, but a federation of ideals. As all paths lead to Rome, so all efforts in the realisation of the universal ideal will lead to the goal. As the individual will be saved by the deeper vision, so will the race be also. The deeper vision lies in deeper spiritual culture. The universal ideal can-not be realised unless and until life and vision become one process of the same manifestation. For this ideal each individual must school himself in self-discipline. It is through self-discipline and self-culture that the Hindu race attained its spirituality.

Whenever a Hindu meets a man, the greeting he gives is to a spark of divine manifestation, Narayan, or Namasker, meaning he bows to the God in him. Whenever he meets a woman, he greets her as Mother, by that realising the Motherhood of God, and ascribing all sanctity to womanhood. When he meets any child, he greets him as an expression of the Child-god. In animals and birds, in sun and dew, in trees and flowers and stars and stones, in all things in the universe, he sees the One Spirit.

On the heights of the Himalayas the Hindus have built temples and monasteries instead of hotels and restaurants. Go to any confluence or junction of two or three rivers, there the people congregate to sing the glory of God. Sectarian-ism in Hinduism! It is blasphemy. How many sects will you see in one group at the religious fairs the Hindus hold in different places? Each man in India has perhaps a peculiar process of self-discipline, or belongs to a certain cult, but he merges his own cult in the universal cult. Go to Puri and Benares or to any of the places of pilgrimage, in one temple there are thousands of people, men and women, of different cults; they all worship the same God. When you stand in the streets of Puri, you will hear people coming from miles away, people of all castes, crying from a distance the moment they see the temple, " Jagannath ! Jagannath! "—" Lover of the world! Lover of the world ! "

This self-realisation as a conscious part of the universe is the goal of the Hindu. India may be the place for his experiment, but the cosmos is his home.

In our religious melas or gatherings the representatives of all cults meet. Ages before America conceived of the ideal of the Parliament of Religions the Hindus raised a platform where even the atheists and agnostics had their place if only they were seeking truth. Each and every system has a corner in the Hindu ideal of spirituality. A Spiritual Congress. Not only the comparing of notes with one another, but the greeting of one another in the atmosphere of realisation. Not the invitation of one particular sect to another, the believers of one religion to different believers of the world of religion. It was the invitation of the atmosphere of India. It was the exchange of spiritual wisdom. One came and sang his song, and another and another. Thus millions gathered and gather to-day in different places all over India. They have kept the sacred fire burning that has saved the race.

India holds her torch of spiritual culture to dispel the darkness of the world. It is the fire of spirituality that she lit in the infancy of human civilisation. That fire which she received she holds aloft today. It is the spiritual fire which the Hindus have sacredly kept that is the only saving message in this world-cataclysm we are passing through to-day. Hatred ceaseth not by hatred, hatred ceaseth only by love." It is man who through his selfishness and egotism has brought disunion and division. We are reaping this fruit. Let us go back to the ideal. Let our foundation be based on real love; on co-operation, not competition. Not my race or nation alone; not my neighbour, but also the neighbour of a distant home. There is an Eternal Justice. That justice demands of us equal treatment for all. If you feed your neighbour and clothe him, what have you done for the neighbour of others, for he is your neighbour also? Not my interest or the interest of my race, but the interest of all is the goal. Vast is the Home — wide the Humanity.

India speaks today to the nations of the world in the voice of all the Avatars of the ages : " Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things. But one thing is needful." India has chosen the " one thing," which " shall not be taken away from her." To-day, as in the ages past, she gathers around the Temple of the Mother. She has come with the incense of love and fellowship. Within the Temple the fire of spirituality is burning. Men, women and children are bringing the sacrifice of their hearts. It is the fragrance of sacrifice that goes forth to all Humanity. The bells of the Temple are ringing. The invitation of the Mother to the children in Her Western Home.

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