About the Book
The book is about the eternal struggle of mankind to know the reality of one’s existence. It concerns the reality of creation, the faiths and beliefs, the scientific perception, the Vedantic view and the intuitive experience in the search for truth. It describes the essentials of Vedic spirituality and makes a case for combining the reasoning faculty of intellect with the scriptures to have personal experience in knowing the truth to avoid superstitions and unfounded beliefs to take hold of one’s religious thinking.
The book discusses the aspects related to religious practice such as universalism, traditional knowledge, myths and legends, scriptural wisdom and the afterlife existence. This book is about a rational approach towards religious practice, about applying one’s own mind to other’s opinion and traditional thought in order to know true from false.
About the Author
Dr V V Rampal graduated from university of Delhi and I.I.Sc, Bangalore. He did his post graduation from I.I.T, Bombay and PhD from University of Southampton, UK. As a senior scientist in the Defence R&D Organisation for over thirty years, he contributed significantly in his field of specialization with more than hundred technical publications and four books on lasers and photonics. He has also been on the teaching faculty of Roorkee University and I.I.T Kanpur. He was Advisor to Govt of India in the Ministry of Science and Technology. For over a decade now, he has studied Vedic spiritualism and is actively involved in science and spirituality with frequent contributions to reputed spiritual journals. His present interests lie in Vedanta and Scientific Realism.
The subject that overlaps the borders of religion and philosophy has been much discussed and debated for over two millenniums. In fact it is as old as the time when persons were overawed by the forces of nature and speculated on a supreme force that ruled over these forces. Since then, everyone who was fascinated by this topic delved into it and contributed his own thoughts to make the subject more intriguing. It is a tribute to the depth and relevance of this topic to human thought that though it is older than all other topics of concern, it is still hotly debated and discussed. One of the reasons for this concern is that there are still some questions that remain unanswered today. Science, with all its advancement and psychology, with all its knowledge on mind, has not satisfied still the curiosity of those who want to know the nature of ultimate reality. Much to the bewilderment of novices, the experts on science and spirituality are unable to explain the exact description of the one source that has created this vast universe with all its simplicities and complications. The scenario, however, is not as bleak as it appears. A student of science, with his background of subatomic physics, and a spiritualist, with his unifying concept of creation, can certainly exchange ideas with mutual advantage. In fact, one with a scientific background is much better placed to understand the scriptural concept regarding the unity behind religions and universal oneness of mind and matter. Similarly, the philosophers find it very rewarding when they come in contact with the philosophical concepts of quantum physics and relativity. We are confronted with levels of metaphysical reality that are beyond our normal perception and to which, we are told by spiritualists, we have the power and the capability to awaken. Radha krishnan has stated in his commentary on Gita that what is revealed in the scriptures, what is thought out by the mind and what is realized through service and meditation must agree. We must learn, reason, and then experience; faith comes first, then knowledge and then experience. This provides a motive for expressing ones views on the subject that is so intriguing and yet so illuminating. Any effort in this direction, howsoever small, should be welcome. Even though it may not add to the originality or the totality of knowledge, the effort to make it understandable is still welcome. The beliefs should be understood in relation to the reality to which they pertain. The reality of the supreme power which is worshipped should be known, however incomplete the knowledge may be. This prevents the slide of religious beliefs and practices towards superstitious and exploitation by vested interests. Further, to make an understanding possible, blinkers need to be removed that block the vision of other disciplines. Scientists must be prepared to talk to spiritualists and vice versa.
Older beliefs need to be reconciled with modem day intellectual efforts. Scientific knowledge can no longer now be ignored in the pursuit of spiritual wisdom. It is part of the seeker’s knowledge base. Science and spirituality have to be brought nearer to each other in the interest of knowing the truth. Search for reality has now taken us from physics to metaphysics and a single source for all creation is seen as a possibility. Intellectual approach to religion can be pursued without unduly disturbing the faith. Intellectual conviction gives support to faith since it can turn a belief into a fact.
A need of the hour is to connect religion to· universal ism. Movement to universal concepts is possible if traditional knowledge about myths, rituals, and afterlife in heaven or hell, is re-looked with an open mind. It is universalism that converts religion to spirituality. Already there are concepts that lend weight to this transition. What is needed is to give a fresh boost to the intellectual efforts in order to widen the scope of religious thinking, especially in matters of exploring our relationship with the supreme reality.
The above are good enough reasons for a rethinking on beliefs and the nature of reality in religion. This book is a modest effort in this direction to highlight the problem.
Belief may change with availability of evidence, religious practice may change with social values and compulsions of survival, but the reality of spiritual truth is changeless. That reality forms the core of universal religion. It is this reality that has been emphasized from time to time by the sages, saints and religious thinkers in every age.
In the vast maize of scriptural literature on spirituality, one is lost if not guided by an enlightened teacher. When such a teacher is not available, one has to rely on one’s inherent intellectual wisdom. This needs an open mind, free from established beliefs, and a readiness to sift-chaff from grain. One also needs courage to stand up to the authority of the statement when one’s conscience refuses to accept the validity of the statement on grounds of rationality. The argument of faith should not silence enquiry. Faith should not demand unquestioned acceptance. Faith should result from proven belief and not blind belief. There is no substitute to self-experience of truth. Acceptance arising from conviction lasts longer, and does not waiver against doubts and suspicions raised by vested interests. It is not necessary to be awed by the vast following of the established preachers who pedal certain beliefs in the interest of social changes desired by self-seeking interests. Every statement needs to be weighed against self-understanding and personal experience. That is the tradition of Vedanta. Question and argue, accept only if it passes the test of verification. Seek knowledge from the knowledgeable, wherever you find them in any social, economic or power strata of society. In the search of knowledge, sages have gone even to the lowest, and those of doubtful descent, to seek the Truth and benefit from their experience. This is what the Upanishads tell us. Performing rituals without understanding their symbolic significance does not make one religious. It only sticks a label of religion onto the person. It is only the packaging and not the content.
Tolerance of others views does not mean acceptance of their statements as true. It is not necessary to despise or even kill a person if he or she claims Godhood. Verify the statement. When a seer of the Upanishad uttered his oneness with God, he was not banished. In the tradition of Vedas and Upanishads, followers of Advaita and duality have coexisted and earned respect from society. Even ritualists of different faiths were accommodated with the understanding that their aim was pleasures of heaven and not the spiritual goal of realizing the Truth. Knowing the Reality is a spiritual quest. Getting the reward of one’s religious actions has the overtones of mundane desires’. For such reward seekers, knowing the Reality is of no concern or consequence.
For various reasons, people have always believed in a personified God, even though this belief may be at variance with reality. People want to relate to someone who is all-powerful, merciful and is of a form that they can understand. It is much too difficult to imagine something that is not of a physical form, is uniformly present in infinite dimensions in space and time and is neither born nor dies. Such a conceptual entity may be experienced but not explained with any success to most people. It is rightly said that God’s reality is like the taste of sugar that a dumb person can only experience but not tell. It has, therefore, always been a daunting task for the religious teachers to explain the Reality in terms of a limited vocabulary, whatever be the formal language they may use.
Again, words and grammar are subject to change with time and it is always difficult to know what the past teachers meant without knowing the proper context of their time. It is no wonder, therefore, that even though Reality has been clothed in ambiguous terms, the emphasis on personal experience has never been overlooked. Even though Vedas and Upanishads may talk of a universal man, the Cosmic Purusha or the Celestial Being, they understood the true form of the Reality by experience. They only made it look familiar to the people when they qualified that Reality with human-like attributes, even though the assigned qualities were infinitely superior. They made God look like human being to make Him more acceptable and believable. A conceptual abstraction would not find the same response.
The link between belief and reality is the personal- experience, a verifiable procedure that strengthens the belief in the’ projected reality. One starts with belief, and through the practice of religion, goes to spiritual experience and realizes the truth. This is the path that most sages, saints and prophets have followed and advised for the good of society. This was true earlier and this is true even now. This is the path that even scientists follow in their quest for truth. They start with hypothesis that they believe in; they make experiments to verify the hypothesis and turn their belief into reality. Both the spiritualists and the materialists have the common goal of reaching the truth, though methods of verification differ. The end points of belief and reality are common, the connecting link of personal experience, or the method of verification, takes a different route. The reality behind material existence cannot be different. Only the methods to reach that reality can differ. And they all have to start with belief.
Both materialists and spiritualists are composed of the same psychophysical apparatus, the human being. The materialists supplement their effort with additional physical apparatus while the spiritualists accentuate their built-in psychic apparatus. Both utilize their intuitive powers beyond their reasoning faculties. Even to the scientists, the flash of ideas is intuitive. As the spiritualists tell us, the intuitive faculty relates us to the cosmic intelligence or the mind of the Supreme Reality. The road that leads to this Supreme Reality runs through the human mind, to intellect, and then to intuition and finally to the Cosmic Consciousness. The roadblock, that prevents this journey to succeed, is the individual ego. It is the ego that separates individual consciousness from the universal consciousness. The .individual becomes cosmic in perception, the moment this veil of ego is lifted. It is this simple truth that is repeatedly emphasized for seeing the Reality.
The universe is also made of the same atoms and molecules that constitute the individual form. The moment one loses the individuality, established by one’s ego, one joins the cosmic reality that has infinitely superior forces at command. The choice is with the individual, whether to remain with ego and suffer the limitations of this existence, or join the more powerful and blissful existence of Universal Reality. The goal is defined but the journey of personal realization has to be undertaken by the individual. The direction has been shown by those who travelled earlier on this path, but the hardships and vicissitudes of journey have to be borne by those who intend to start on this arduous journey. You have to start with the belief that the road shown by others will indeed take you there. The belief comes from the knowledge that those who are showing the way have indeed travelled themselves in that direction. This is the basis of religious belief. We believe that the prophets, or the enlightened ones, have indeed found a way of accessing blissful existence and that existence is far more superior to the one we live in. Without that belief no religion can survive. However, one is not to stop with this belief but move on further to achieve the goal of spiritual bliss. The belief should inspire one to proceed with the journey of personal experience in order to reach the goal of self-realization. This journey is the true practice of religion.
In the pursuit of Reality, Yoga and Vedanta are the two essential elements of philosophical approach to religious practice. Vedanta philosophy defines the goal, the nature of Reality, the importance of realizing it and the mental processes that help in its realization. Yoga is concerned with the practicality of approach, the techniques of using the psychophysical apparatus to reach the goal. It provides the tools of experimentation. Vedanta will provide the knowledge; Yoga will provide the experience, though Yoga of knowledge is a linking mechanism between the two.
Philosophy and its practice are both necessary in the pursuit of religion. This holds true in all religions. Merely knowing the attributes of God does not help. He has to be meditated upon also, may be in prayers and devotion. Scriptures provide the basis for believing in God, the very first step in the process of realization, but it is the personal experience of meditation and prayers that enable one to progress on the journey. The exact method adopted for - getting the experience depends on the physical and mental capacity, the accumulated experiences and the environment of the, individual. The sages have, therefore, suggested a variety of approaches to suit the mental and physical make-up of the seeker.
For many people, the abstraction of Reality acts as a sufficient damper to start on the journey to spirituality. For them, going through the motions of rituals is good enough to give them the satisfaction of being religious and remaining on the right side of the Supreme Power. Some even suggest that one should not bother about the details regarding nature of Reality since one has the capacity to find out the truth oneself. This is a good argument to avoid the knowledge of the scriptures and the large variety of opinions on the subject. However, only the most adventurous can tread on this path since one has to make one’s own way in this journey.
Belief in Religion and Impersonal God
Belief in Religion, Personalized God
Sanctity of Beliefs
Belief in Supreme Reality:
Belief about God
Belief in After-Life
Experience of Reality
Religion and Self Realization
Importance of Being Religious
Need For Belief
Reality and Conditioned Mind
Reality of Existence - The Self
Unity Principle and Universal Living
Maya and Reality
Vedantic View of Consciousness
Realization is True Religion
The Yogic Path to Perfection
Yoga Is Union with Divine
Sankhya View of Existence
Unity of Existence
Three-Fold Yogic Approach to Perfection
Human Action and Divine Will
Action and Renunciation
Intelligence and Energy
Spiritualism in Life
Mind, Intuition and Super mind
States of Awareness
Universality of Religious Life
Message of the Scriptures
Vedic View of Supreme Reality
The Upanishad View
The Message of Bhagwad Gita
Heaven and Hell
Ahimsa and Dietary Codes
Retreat from Life
Knowledge and Experience
Worship of Mythical Gods
Study of Sacred Literature
Learning from Nature
Gyani Bhakta-The Wise Worshipper
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