This book has its origin in the instructions and blessings I received from my revered teacher, Swami Brahmananda — the spiritual son of Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna. Wishing to see me grow along intellectual and literary lines side by side with the spiritual, the Swami greatly encouraged me in my study of religious and allied literature. Once he said: “Form your habit of study to such an extent that you will feel unhappy if any day you fail to pursue your studies.” Then he explained what he meant: “The mind may not always be able to remain on the spiritual plane. In that case it may be kept occupied with higher religious thoughts, and will not be allowed to fall into a lower plane.” The words of the master gave me great incentive to my studies of which I sometimes kept elaborate notes.
During the early years of my monastic life, for fear of developing a false ego, I was very reluctant to discuss religious matters with the members of the public or to write articles for our magazines, although I was directly connected with the publication of our Madras magazine, the Vedanta Kesari, from its very inception. One day the Swami asked me, “Why don’t you talk on religious topics with the devotees?” In return I asked, “What am I to talk about?” Replied the Swami: “Why, what you are learning from us, what you are acquiring through your studies, what you are gaining through your attempts to lead the religious life—just speak of that.” This advice gave me the direction to make my treatment of religious subjects as practical as possible.
On another day he asked me: “Why don’t you write an article every week?” I enquired: “What shall I write? I do not have any ideas.” The Swami replied: “Learn to think deeply. Then the ideas will rush so much that it will be a problem for you to regulate the current.” What the Guru had predicted proved to be literally true. Through his grace I have never fallen short of ideas in the course of my speaking or writing.
Later on, at the command of the Swami, I served for three years as the editor of the Prabuddha Bharata, our magazine now published from Calcutta, and also some years after, as the editor of the Vedanta Kesari, along with my duties as the President of Sri Ramakrishna Math, Madras. I thus got the opportunity of writing many articles.
But the suggestion of preparing an article ever week could only be literally carried out during the years of my service as the leader of the Vedanta Centre, Philadelphia, Pa., U.S.A., between 1942 and 1949. I used to prepare elaborate notes for my Sunday talks many of which were preserved in disc-records and later on transcribed. This was also repeated years after at Bangalore since October, 1951. The chapters of the present volume are originally lectures delivered in Philadelphia and Bangalore, all of which were published in the Vedanta and the West, the Prabuddha Bharata, the Vedanta Kesari and the Vedanta for East and West . of these magazines for their generous permission to publish these articles in book form.
I also heartily thank the many authors and publishers of several .books, too numerous to mention, who have helped me in the preparation of the lectures, and from which I have quoted many apt passages. In spite of my best efforts I have not been able to trace the sources of some of the passages quoted by me. I must mention here that I have taken the liberty of abridging and adapting some of these for the sake of convenience. In translating some of the Sanskrit and other passages I have followed the free and interpretative method, thereby avoiding too many explanations and probably making the reading as painless as possible.
In the preparation of the book I have received the hearty co-operation of many of my friends, students and co-workers whose number is too large for individual mention. I therefore take this opportunity of offering them all my most grateful thanks collectively.
This book is humbly dedicated to the Universal Spirit dwelling in all beings and particularly manifest in the hearts of sincere spiritual seekers. I wish and pray that this cooperative labour of love may prove to be beneficial to many spiritual seekers in their religious adventures. May it awaken their interest in their spiritual ideal, help them in their spiritual practice and encourage them in their striving to attain the heights of spiritual realization.
“Know the Self to be the Master sitting in the chariot, and the body the chariot. Consider the intellect as the charioteer, and the mind as the reins. The senses are the horses and the sense-objects, the roads. He who is always of restrained mind and possesses right understanding has his senses controlled like the good horses of a charioteer. He, who has wisdom for his charioteer and the mind as the well-controlled reins, reaches the end of the spiritual journey — the realisation of the Supreme, all-pervading Spirit.”
“With the heart concentrated by Yoga, with the eyes of evenness for all beings, the illumined Yogi beholds the Self in all beings and all beings in the Self. Being established in unity he worships the Supreme Spirit dwelling in all beings and ever abides in the highest spiritual consciousness”.
The Religious Attitude
While the out and out materialist looks upon man as a body — a combination of cells — and the psychologist as an integrated body-mind, the spiritually illumined regards man in his essential nature as a soul having the mind and body as its coverings or instruments. Material life is, therefore, concerned primarily with the well-being of the body. Mental life is occupied with the welfare of both the body and the mind. Spiritual life on the other hand takes into account all the three factors, the soul, the mind and the body, and aims at the harmonious development of the body and the mind so that the soul may be able to unfold its potential divinity spontaneously. The instruments of the mind and the body must be made healthy and vigorous so that the soul may function through them freely and joyfully. That is why we find the ancient Vedic Rishis praying: “May my limbs, speech, breath, eye, ear and also my strength and all my senses become refreshed and vigorous. . .May I who am devoted to the Atman be endowed with all the virtues extolled in the Upanishads.”
The Task Of The Adventurers
In all forms of adventures the adventurer somehow feels the existence of an unknown infinite region and wishes to discover it.
The scientific explorer is attempting to come in touch with new regions in the world of matter. The psychologist trying to probe into unexplored regions of the mind, subconscious and unconscious. The para-psychologist with ::e help of extra-sensory perception is discovering the new world of the mind”, and is demonstrating how “the mind can in some way transcend barriers of time and acquire impressions of events to come.” He is proving how “a direct mind to mind contact is possible in the case of persons living far distant from one another”, thereby widening the frontiers of the mind and revealing the power the mind to reach new regions transcending the domain id laws of matter. The spiritual seeker is eager to come directly — intuitively in touch with the infinite Spirit, which like the Infinite light interpenetrates and permeates not only his own soul but all souls. In the course of his search for his own Atman, the individual soul comes to discover the glory of Paramatman — the Infinite Spirit which is called by various appellations, Brahman, God, Jehova, Allah, Tao, Truth and so on.
The Upanishadic seer advises:
“Abandoning vain talks know the Supreme Atman, the Self by whom heaven, earth and sky, the mind and the vital powers are permeated. This is the way to attain inmortality — the eternal life.
The Religious Adventurer
It is the pearl of divine Love that makes the spiritual seeker richer in spirit and happier in life.
What the poet says of the ocean diver is also true of all divers, and particularly so of spiritual divers, who fathom the depths of the infinite Spirit and become enriched in spiritual knowledge.
The religious adventurer has also been likened to an explorer who wishes to reach the heights of the snow-capped Himalayan peaks. Like the mountaineer, the spiritual seeker, eager to attain the heights of transcendental consciousness, trains his body and nerves, lungs and muscles and also his entire mind with his thinking, feeling and willing. He starts his journey, as it were, conquering the ground under his feet step by step until he reaches the highest peak and is lost in its glory. Speaking of the Vedantic explorer, Prof. Max Muller observes:
“I am myself not a mountaineer, nor am I altogether a Vedantist, but if I can admire the bold climbers scaling Mount Gouri-Sankar, I can also admire the bold thinkers toiling up to the heights of the Vedanta where they seem lost to us in clouds and sky.”
Man’s Attitude Towards God The Ultimate Reality
There are various attitudes entertained by the religious seekers towards God. “0 Lord, while I identify myself with he body I am your servant. When I consider myself as an individual soul 1 am your part. And when I look upon myself as the Spirit 1 am one with yourself — the Supreme Spirit.”
The body-conscious dualist considers God a person eparate from himself and comes to entertain a personal relationship with Him — as a servant, a child, a friend or a lover. To the distressed He is the remover of misery, to :he frustrated the fulfiller of wishes, to the enquirer the goal ‘f his quest. The idea of God is coloured by the attitude ‘of the aspirant.
The well-known psychologist, Professor Gorden Allport, who recognises the value of religion, remarks: “It is unnecessary to exhaust the list of contributing desires. Their multiplicity is indicated by the varying conceptions of Deity held by different individuals and by one and the same individual at different periods of time. When we teed affection, God is love; knowledge, He is omniscient; consolation, He granteth peace that passeth understanding. When we have sinned, He is the Redeemer; when we need guidance, the Holy Spirit. Divine attributes plainly conform to the panorama of desire, although the I individual is seldom aware that his approach to his deity is determined by his present needs.
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