Religion is more a tendency than a realisation. Realisation is no doubt the goal; but in this universe of relativity, every goal reached after an ardent pursuit but discloses a remoter goal, towards which the aspirant girds up his loins once again to aspire and work. Hence, in this universe of relativity and phenomena, religion is but a relative phenomenon. It consists in aspiration, in pursuit, and hence in movement. But every movement is affected in one of two ways as regards direction; there is a positive and a negative in it. The positive movement is the spiritual and the negative the material. But, in the positive, i.e. the spiritual itself, there is such a thing as the lower and the higher, chiefly with reference to the goal that is aimed at. Therefore, to a person that is working towards a higher goal, the men that may be pursuing a lower one may appear to be engaged in unworthy and childish pursuits; but the sports of children are satisfactory enough to children. The one fault that grown up men are likely to commit is to wean the children too early from their dolls and trinkets and to try to put on their young shoulders an older head than they can bear; precisely in the same way the ardent religionist is apt to carry by preaching over the heads of the people and calling them up to the pursuit of ideals which they do not sight. In the early days of spiritual culture in this country, this psychological fact in human nature was clearly understood and a kind of self-revelation was made possible, by judicious questioning and preparation, for the ardent pupil. But now in these days of missionary activity and forced conversions we have forgotten this and imagine that the pursuit of a lower ideal is per se bad and that attempts must be made by those higher up in the scale to wean their less advanced brethren from their relative errors. But we must consider first whether they are past the stage of those errors. Human evolution may be seen to repeat itself in the individual evolution and in the children we may see the undeveloped man, slowly progressing towards a higher and higher goal by repeated annullings of the past. We may as well call a three year old darling to the duties and responsibilities of a Matron as attempt to convert the ignorant materialistic man to the glories of advanced spirituality. What sane words did our ancients utter? Parikshya lokan Karmachitan Brahmano nirvedam ayat nastiyakritah kritena etc. It is only after personal and individualistic experience of the lower that the soul towards the higher. An early and forced attempt at making a man towards the higher while he is not yet self-weaned from the lower only makes of him a Mr. Facing-both-ways (a Samsayatma, in the language of the Gita) and he perishes. Therefore in spiritual as well as in ordinary worldly education the rule is to be "Ask and is shall be given."
It is satisfactory that of late the spirit of toleration which began purely as a humanitarian movement has found for itself a philosophical basis. It is hoped that hereafter conversions will not be counted by the number of heads as in a sheep-fold, but will take note of real spiritual movement from a lower to a higher. In our country the goal pursued is always gathered up in thought by means of a symbol and this symbolic representation of the goal is the deity. Worship of any particular god therefore simply means pursuit of the ideal symbolised in that form. If we really understand the significance of the symbol and the means employed in its pursuit, which is the ceremonialism of the worship, we are consciously pursuing the spiritual goal which induces in our inner nature those qualities that correspond to the activity; and it slowly heaves us onward; thus we pass from heaven to heaven. As long as we blindly follow any ceremonialism without diving deeper, we make no spiritual movement. And in matters spiritual there is no such thing as rest. We either move forwards or backwards. If the higher is ceased to be consciously pursued, the physical in us pursues the lower. The organ of the soul, being closed to activity on the positive side, functions itself on the negative. Therefore the activity of a religious teacher that understands his business will be confined to making a man understand what he is doing, - to shedding light on human activities, be they in what plane so ever. Light up the ways of men, light up the ways of activity and help each one sympathetically in his pursuit. If he is tired of it and if he wants something higher by directing his observation to what persons in a higher stage are seen to be doing, it is then the duty of the teacher to smoothen his ways thereto. Progress from the lower to the higher is rendered possible only by the existence and open pursuit of a higher ideal in the world. Hence there ought to be diversity in religion. To level down all to one apparent uniformity is to take away the very possibility of progress. Our watchword therefore ought to be: let men multiply, let knowledge increase, let diversity of pursuit gain in strength. Only men must pursue what they wish for with ardour (Sradhdha) and with determination (Avasaya). In their ardent pursuit they are apt to hate the lower. They must and ought to hate the lower. Let them hate the lower in themselves not in others. They are conscious that for them what they consider lower is lower; but they cannot be sure that what they consider lower in others may not in reality be a higher with reference to a still lower lower in them. Hatred of the lower in them and sympathy in the conscious pursuit of any goal, however humble, in others: this must be the attitude of a truly spiritual soul. This is the double aspect of toleration. In these days toleration is very often mistaken into indifference. Indifference is sleep, is death. Toleration is the clear running of the deep waters of spirituality. Serenity is its body, sympathy its seat, and joy its head.
But toleration itself has its limits. There is again such a thing as realised spirituality. Morality is realised spirituality. A society which has made a certain progress and which has given permanence to a realised ideal in the form of an institution has risen beyond the stage symbolised by that institution. Therefore every member born into that body inherits, as if it were a legacy, the culture belonging to that institution. Education therefore must first teach the young a fair and adequate idea of the realised ideal symbolised in the institution that the society represents and facilities must be given for each individual member to live in imagination as quickly as possible the lower stages passed irrevocably by it in the bye-gone days. Hence the avidity in the young for sensation, sentimentalism, marvels and even sensuality; all this must be permitted with a winking connivance by those that are in charge of the bringing up of youth, if only these strayings aside lead eventually to a more ardent longing to regain that the modern admiration for fiction and novels in the young is a safety valve for the lower passions and may be let alone, if only the novels themselves always hold up a true spiritual ideal by directing a movement from a lower to a higher. If the fictitious heroes and heroines are better in their own light at the end of the third volume than at the commencement - better in the sense that they have moved from a lower to a higher, albeit that higher is lower than the realised higher of the society - everything is well.
But in practice the lower pursuits that a society has risen above must not be permitted at all. To prevent such practice it is that the organisation of a society as a governmental body exists; it is also for this reason that public opinion finds its utterance in one way or other. Morality is subordination to the past and its custodians are sentiment, opinion and authority. Spirituality is sub-ordination to the future and its repository is in the heart and in the imagination. The province of toleration is confined to the latter; to extend its influence over the former is to confound all morality; it will inevitably lead to the disruption of society.
G. KASTURI AIYENGAR. M.A.,