Practicing spirituality in the age of falsehood.


                                                                (Image from internet)

This world is full of people who pretend to be what they are not. Fake personalities have invaded all walks of life. They may be knowledgeable, but their intent is not noble.

People congregate to such personalities because everyone needs help and assurance. Problems galore, difficulties galore, families are breaking up, communities have collapsed, and governments exist to exploit people. People therefore turn to whoever offers some help, or some relief from the drudgery.

In the hills the simple people will blindly respect those who take to the saffron robe. If you ask them to verify antecedents, they will give you a peculiar reply. If we help a holy man we will get our rewards, they say, if the holy man is insincere it is his problem. Wonderful argument!

Those who take to a religious life must be extremely careful. When people gather around them and fall at their feet it gets to their head, unless they are very strongly rooted.

Then they start building empires and fall even more. The empire attracts people of all shades who take over and control everything. The "holy man" then becomes their puppet and slave. After his death the organization crumbles or new factions appear. 

The Guru has become an entertainer. He must deliver lectures everyday and find out ways to keep his followers engrossed. Where is spirituality in this?

The intelligent persons keep aloof and allow only the sincere to gather around them. They concentrate on the spiritual welfare of their followers. If they sense that an organization is coming up around them, they either limit it or leave the place. There are also those who do not dawn the mantle of a Guru but adopt that of a co traveler on the path.

The spiritual path is the razors edge. Evil is ever ready to pounce on the holy man and drag him down. The holy man angers the lord of the material world who wants the population to remain fully engrossed in it. The man who opens the door to the other world is a threat to him. He therefore actively seeks his downfall.

What can the people do? The masses will tend to act like how they are doing now, flocking to celebrities. It is a pure waste of time. They remain passive observers or get embroiled in organization activities thinking they are doing great service. It is difficult to know how they are benefitted.

The Hindu religion is not about building organizations. It has been set up by mendicants or by realized souls who care two figs about material gains. Therefore this religion is about the path to the ultimate self realization. It appears before the person according to his or her need and spiritual progress.

For the ordinary person it is about rituals and worship, in the next phase it is about tantra and mantra, the next step teaches karma, bhakti, and jnana, and the next is about the enquiry and practices that leads one to the subtle essence.

Decide at what level you are. Know that you yourself will have to drag yourself up by the boot straps. Nobody else can do it for you. Personal effort is absolutely essential.

India is fortunate to have great philosophies and numerous spiritual leaders. It has divine incarnations; Shiva, Rama, and Krishna. What you can do is study the genuine scriptures and the teachings of spiritual leaders who appeal to you.

In this age getting a physical Guru is problematic, though I will not say they do not exist. You have to do with Gurus of the past who have proven their worth. They will guide you and not deceive. When you follow a holy person, his blessings are with you.

The best of the scriptures for the modern age are;

  • The Bhagavad Gita
  • The Ramayana and Mahabharata
  • The Shiva Sutras
  • The Astavakra Gita
  • The Kaivalya Navaneeta
  • The Mandukya Upanishad
  • The works of Adi Sankaracharya
  • The collected works of Ramana Maharshi
  • The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna
  • The life and teachings of Sri Chaitanya

But beware of losing yourself in the forests of words. Bhagavan Ramana used to tell the parable of a man looking at different mirrors to shave himself. He was unable to complete the task. All he had to do was to look at the first mirror and shave!

Similarly just one advice, one mantra, and one book is more than enough. One has to dive within. The external props can never lead you to the goal.

Sri Ramakrishna was critical of book reading. He used to say, if you want to have a dip in the Ganges, you need to do it at one place. You need not travel the entire stretch of the river and keep on dipping.

He would confront those who loved to show off their erudition; what do the scriptures say, he would retort, "Brahma satya, jagat mithya", only this, is it not? Brahman is real and the world is an illusion. This is the only refrain throughout.

Truly what the scriptures say can be summarized as;

  • The world is an illusion
  • Brahman alone is real
  • You are that Brahman

Therefore realize your true nature by reflecting on this, discriminating between the real and unreal, and going beyond the duality that presents itself before you.

If you are sincere, the right path will seek you out. It does not matter in which age you are born.