The Experiences of the Godly and the Buddhist Tenets.
The atheists and agnostic philosophers who flourished in the West during the last century have written voluminously on the problems of God, the soul and the existence. The scientists too have explored the visible regions with life-long labor and uniting energy with the despondent result that they are unable to say anything about the Invisible Power which permeates the universe. They admit that there is a difference between the dead particle and the living microbe; but they are unable to unveil the mystery of this living organism. The scientists do not halt at this conclusion, but have gone to the extent of torturing the texts out of the Holy Scriptures and affording interpretations which have thrown Theologians into the clouds.
The inscrutable doctrines of God have been preached to the world by inspired writers through the spirit of God which the scientists say and regard as mere hallucinations, reverie, dream and figment. Those who have read the writings of the modern philosophers would confess what amount of calumny and blasphemy they have hurled on the Holy Bible and other sacred scriptures. The existence of those Divine men is ignored by them on the ground that they are inventions of human imaginations. These like theories have proceeded from the strong halo or imaginations which are no doubt the products of the mind and cannot be classified with products of faith. The mind in the sense I understand is only a maya or illusion and acts as a curtain in dividing the unseen from the seen. As long as the mind has the sovereignty over the inquiries of man, it will never know what is behind the curtain. Subdue the mind first and the senses are controlled. The curtain then is removed and mystery is brought to light. By mystery, it simply means what we call secret, - a thing for the time concealed but afterwards to be made known. It is the correlative term to Revelation.
If the mind is not extinguished, however we may attempt through the arbitrary assumptions and vanities of the mind, we would not be able to catch a glimpse of the Invisible which the world designates, as Siva, in Hinduism, Jehovah, in Christianity and Allah in Mohammedanism etc. For having a conception of God, we must become dead to the world and have simple child like faith reigning supreme over the mind. If faith deepens and the tendencies of the mind come under its control, we are no more a slave to the world, but we become conscious of "something" which makes us happy and peaceful and reveal to us all that we have been anxious to know. The mysteries which the mind tries to unravel by metaphysical and philosophical researches and discoveries are revealed in the dead man but purely superconscious, viewing the world – not as two but one and inseparable – in advaita. The saving Light of God falls only upon the eye of faith. Then the spirit of God directly shines upon the soul like the meridian Sun and illumines and warms the entire spiritual nature of men. It bursts like a resistless flood into the heart, sweeps away ignorance and doubt, impurity and wickedness, and converts even the hard stony heart of a confirmed sinner into a garden smiling in all the luxuriance of spiritual harvests of faith, love and purity. Faith, hope and charity make up the spiritual man.
No religions of the world have revealed to us explicitly the conception of God and soul and the universe like the Saiva Siddhanta system of philosophy, a profound study of which with a fervent faith in Sivam will clear all our doubts and weaknesses and would land us in the area of God's providence. It is no doubt an indigenous growth and there is much food for thought and meditation. I would refer my Hindu readers, if they care to know something of Siva, soul and maya, to Sivajnanapotam for philosophic study of the problems, and for practical knowledge to the study of the sacred utterances of the four Saiva Saints and Tayumanavar-padal. The hymns testify to us in solemn tone, the presence of Siva both in the mind of Jnanis and in the sacred shrines where He loves to reside. We have no other conclusive and heart rending evidence than the spiritual lives of these Saints, who have saved Saivism from decay and from the religious incursions of the Buddhists and Jains.
When I happened to read the life and teachings of Buddha, I was surprised to notice the narrow interpretation foisted upon his ethical teachings and also the fact that he denied the existence of God. It is impossible to dissert fully upon the teachings of Buddha and his direct appeal to the Supreme Being under a metaphysical garb. Buddhist Philosophers are of opinion that there is no God and the present existence is only the result of actions done in former birth, and Karma is the cause of all sufferings and misery. A real understanding of the theory of Karma would throw ample light on the secret working of an unperceptible Power, to which we can give any name we choose. Buddhist philosophy is admitted to be the grandest and most practical course of ethics in the world. I would state briefly how Buddha received the light. No one would gainsay the fact that he must have been first initiated into the step of divine contemplation by having a concrete object before him or an abstract idea in his mind's eye. This he must have developed by deep meditation and which finally must have melted into his own being. In that state he would have been no other than a dead man with the world and his personality as one and undifferentiated. He then should have perceived the world in Him and Him in the world because the individual self or the lower self, I may say, had been annihilated to him. It cannot be annihilation but here it means the merging of the lower self in the Higher Self. Buddhists may deny God and they cannot controvert the fact that at least unconsciously they believe in Buddha who is supposed to be a divine incarnation. His mission was to emancipate mankind from the tyranny of sin, and the solution of the problem perplexed him and dominated his mind. That idea must have extended into his being and shaped him after that. He preached to the world no other thing than the remedy and his purpose was fulfilled. He spoke nothing of the Supreme, because the natural phenomena are present to us in brilliant colors, the manifestation of God and His Omnipotence. His teachings are pregnant with life and vigor and millions of people are moved to renounce the world. There is life and there is power in his teachings and how dare we assert that he preached atheism? By Nirvana it is meant, the freedom from egoism – And so on.
As regards Karma the actions always presuppose an actor which nobody would deprecate in the face of all pervading witness. The actor or agent has life and courage and possesses an understanding which guides him in his struggle for attaining Nirvana. If that vitality, power or energy is only a dream and not a living truth and if individual consciousness does not survive the dissolution of the body, where is the evidence that the present man, if Buddha hood is not attainable, will reincarnate in a future birth – we cannot for a moment rest satisfied with the argument that there is a law or order. Law or order is not self existent, but presupposes a Divine Law-Giver. Both the law and law-giver are one and inseparable. If we say simply order, the argument falls to the ground.
When I once attended a lecture by a learned Buddhist priest, I heard him saying boldly that there is no God and that the Buddhists are free-thinkers, I was really moved and I thought that I must give publicity to my faith in the existence of God. We do not in the least condemn Buddhism which is as grand, perfect a religion as any other in the world, but that we state our convictions which experience has disclosed to us. A Bengali philosopher told me the other day that no man in this world pretends himself to be an atheist, which is a mere contradiction in terms. In their flights of imaginations the atheists think so and at the agony of death, as Voltaire confessed, they confess their ignorance and folly.
Jnanis and Sages of India who are the divine missionaries, have left behind them for our illumination, the truth of the existence of a Higher Being. The word has accepted in toto, the sublime teachings of the sages, and we, the Hindus of the Twentieth Century, are guided by their counsel in our aspirations after spiritual life, and we are convinced of the truths and feel within us the highest significance of their immortal sayings.
After the dawn of the Christian Era there lived in South India many saints and yogis who had been engrossed in the affairs of the world as we are, and after having studied the Vedas (the eternal revelations) they perceived the instability of the body and this mundane life, and renouncing the world they led a highly spiritual life by which they were freed from the thralldom of the flesh. The yogis practiced cannot of the mind by the suppression of breath* according to the prescribed methods as laid down in the yoga sastras and were illumined. [* The writer is obviously referring to one of the "exercise in godliness", known as the pranayama which has, however, nothing to do with the "suppression of breath" as people understand "breath" – Ed. L.T.] They too have revealed to us supernatural things, such as walking on the sea, floating in the air and so on, which to the modern scientists, would seem legendary and imaginary. The so called saints started with a firm faith in a Supreme Being whom they designated as Siva, Nataraja, Pillaiyar, etc., as suited their form of worship, and they developed their faith in God till they perceived that they are one with Siva in advaitic union – a state of perfection when father, mother, and brother were perceived with an eye of equality "balanced in pleasure and pain, self-reliant, to whom a lump of earth, a rock and gold, are alike, the same to be loved and unloved, firm, the same in censure and in praise, the same in honor and ignominy, the same to friend and foe, abandoning all understandings, they are said to have crossed over the qualities". They suffered not the mortal death but were absorbed in union with Siva with the mortal coil. During the state of divine ecstasy, they have given utterance to spontaneous out-pouring of verses which appeal to the burning heart of aspiring souls, and many thousands of such souls, both educated and the illiterate, are to be found strewn over the vast jungles and mountains of India. The divine saints have viewed the world as a manifestation of Siva in a visible shape (He is both visible and invisible) and this concrete symbolism is only a projection of the Maya. To them matter and spirit which we conceive as two different entities are one and inseparable. Consequently we read in their verses, the visible object such as rivers, mountains, stones and so on invested with the spirit of God, and they perceived with an eye of wisdom the Omnipresence of God in every particle and atom. Those who have the eyes, let them see. Every human being is endowed with a latent power which when worked out will reveal the Light within. Those who attempt to wade through the sea of misery like a sailor with a compass, will reach the Land where Eternal Peace and Happiness reign.
For infants, that is to say, those who are babes in Christ in Pauline phraseology, first an object in the form of a picture should be placed before the eyes, and when the object has been seen, felt, and stamped upon the tablet of the mind, it is removed, and it now exists only in imagination as an ideal picture. Again by years of spiritual culture, the ideal too vanishes from the stronghold of the mind, i.e., in simple words it has been assimilated and made into his own being. The ideal is the God's picture which when it is brought into advaitic union, ceases to distinguish the real from the ideal. This is only a succinct explanation of a gradual spiritual unfoldment.
In the West, Christianity has been presented to the people with an insufficiency of facts, that it failed to exercise any potent and healthy influence over the seekers after God; and it is no wonder that they have fallen into irreligious condition, the outcome of which has been doubt and skepticism. The cultured, practically speaking, have no religion, and they are either free thinkers or agnostics. Materialism has supplanted Spiritualism, and it looks as if in the next generation there will be no more talk about God and Christ. The gratification of the senses is considered to be the summum bonum. Europe cannot pursue the present policy of indifferentism and conventionalism for long; for Spiritualism will triumph over Materialism. No beaten brass, no iron walls can imprison the valiant spirit.
In India, besides the peasants and working classes who are made of a divine stuff, the cultured few as a whole, without any exception, even those who have swallowed the Western ideas and notions, are profoundly religious and stoical in regard to the affairs of the world. The lovers of India are filled with the spirit of God, and are moved to espouse the Indian cause with fervor and enthusiasm, foregoing wealth and position, because they know that India is the cradle of spirituality. They care little for the conveniences of this life. Their love is universal. Has any nation maintained its national and spiritual impress, with so little of physical vitality and such lack of material resources? And the Indian people have survived all the misfortunes that overran this country, time out of mind, from the days of the Bhagavad-Gita, because they have possessed the spirit of God and been conscious of the Justice of the Divine Law. He is everywhere, and He is in each of us. Divorce God from our life, we become worse than beasts, and drag on a miserable existence.
The spiritual man may suffer the stings and arrows of this life, but the love to God he accumulates would make him stronger and stronger, such that in this life he turns out to be a rock of virtue and righteousness. He would be filled with joy and hope, and the end will be one of peace and happiness. We every one of us, have witnessed the lives of good and religious men, and though we are far behind them, we do not try to live after them. God is not unjust. To the good He is good; To the wicked He is bad, and unless we change our life and see God in everything, we would not be able to emerge from this ocean of existence.
It is because many of the educated young men have a rationalistic turn of mind and they question the existence of God, that I thought I could say something of what I think of God and this life. The Buddhists also have no faith in God, and I have touched upon the teachings of Buddha briefly, and I have pointed out the necessity of a Supreme Being to rule over us.
In fine, I would humbly ask the reader to ponder over the following verses from Bhagavad-Gita.
(1) "United to the Reason, purified, controlling the self by firmness, having abandoned sound and other objects of the senses, having laid aside passion and malice, (2) Dwelling in solitude, abstemious, speech and mind subdued, constantly fixed in meditation and yoga, taking refuge in dispassion, (3) Having cast aside egoism, violence, arrogance, desire, wrath, covetousness, selfless and peaceful – he is fit to become the Eternal".