In the current context, besides the ghastly dance of death that we are seeing today, wherein heaps of dead bodies are swelling further every day, do we see deadness or lifelessness in some other terms as well? Perhaps yes. A slight contemplation and a sincere attempt to listen to your inner voice can help you come up with the answer. It's a type of deadness, regarding which Billy Graham strikingly quotes, “While Nietzsche asserts that God died in the 19th century, some now add that man died in the twentieth century.” He succinctly labels this age as the age of 'spiritual emptiness', wherein man is blindly engrossed in escalating “only” material heights. Here, the words of Swami Vivekananda demand our serious attention. He categorically remarks– “The mainspring of the strength of every race lies in its spirituality, and the death of that race begins the day that spirituality wanes and materialism gains ground.”
Why is it so? Why the Swami went to the extent of saying that the absence of spirituality means no less than the death of the human race itself? Perhaps, the stark statement of Samuel Taylor answers it outright– "If man is not rising upward to be an angel, he is sinking downward to be a devil... he cannot stop from being the beast."
The mention of ‘The Monkey Trial' as highlighted in his writings by Yogananda Paramahansa, would be befitting here. Once, a school teacher was teaching the Theory of Evolution as proposed by Charles Darwin. However, when he talked about Darwin's view of man having being evolved from apes, it triggered a big controversy in the entire class. Two groups were formed– one supporting the opinion and the other condemning it. The latter group said, “It's absurd to say that our forefathers used to jump from one branch to another and hung through their tails.” On the other hand, the former group tried to justify its stand by producing various logics and arguments. At that moment, the famous trial in Tennessee was going on. As the argument was at its peak, the head monkey went to the heaven with the team of his delegates to meet God. Putting forth his complaint, he addressed thus: “Your Majesty! Kindly pay heed to our voices of protest. These human beings are themselves neck-deep drowned in all sorts of misdeeds, be it exploitation, selfishness, greed, etc. And, now this clan of human beings is trying to project and prove that they are our relatives. Lord, we are highly insulted!”
Sounds insulting to us, but it is vehemently true! And this will remain to be true till we realise the dire 'need' of turning towards spirituality, or to be more specific and unambiguous, “practical spirituality which stands on the foundation of inner awakening”.
Time is demanding that 'Spirituality' should be no longer considered as a Cinderella subject, i.e. something which receives very little attention whereas it deserves to receive more. The state of crisis in terms of morality and humanity that we are going through is calling for a strict adherence to a spiritual way of living in the true sense.
But, hold on! Does this declaration meet with a strong repulsion or resistance in your intellectual domain? If yes, then the time is also calling for a dire need to shed off all your pre-conceived notions about spirituality and endorse an image, which is developed on the basis of wise understanding and self-experience. You adopt the same strategy with spirituality, which Thomas Edison followed in his profession. Before including anyone in his team, Edison would first pose a set of very simple and generic questions to a potential employee… like, “Which market do you generally visit?”, “Who invented printing?”, etc. After that, he used to take the applicant out for dinner and offered him a bowl of soup. He then silently observed the candidate as to what he does next? If, without even tasting the soup, the candidate seasoned it with salt, Edison would de-select him right then and there! Why? It was because this meant to say that the person believes in moving as per his pre-built assumptions, instead of aligning his outlook or decisions with facts and reality.
Likewise, especially in this internet age, each one of us is stuffed with a plethora of self-beliefs and conceptions about spirituality. However, the wise ones, the enlightened ones are again and again asking us to stick to just one fundamental parameter, i.e. inner awakening. Just read the following words of Sri Aurobindo– “It must therefore be emphasised that spirituality is not high intellectuality, not idealism, not an ethical turn of mind …not religiosity or an ardent and exalted emotional fervour, not even a compound of all these excellent things; a mental belief, creed or faith, an emotional aspiration, a regulation of conduct according to a religious or ethical formula are not spiritual achievement and experience. These things are of considerable value to the mind and life …but they still belong to the mental evolution. The beginning of a spiritual realisation, experience, change is not yet there. Spirituality is in its essence an awakening to the inner reality of our being, to a spirit, self, soul which is other than our mind, life and body… to enter into contact with the greater Reality beyond and pervading the universe which inhabits also our own being, to be in communion with It and union with It, and a turning, a conversion, a transformation of our whole being as a result of the aspiration, the contact, the union, a growth or waking into a new becomiXng or new being, a new self, a new nature.
Indeed, it is this newness which this age is begging from us… from each one of us! Socrates too refers to the same, when he says– "The noblest of all investigations is what man should be and what he should pursue." In this context, one should definitely go through the famous composition of Adi Guru Shankaracharya, whiZch is well-known by the name– Bhaja Govindam. This composition, which is a set of thirty one verses, is also known as Moha Mudgara. Mudgara means mallet and moha refers to the intense web of attachments in which a person remains trapped throughout his life. Through each verse, wherein the sage doesn't even hesitate to call man 'a fool', Shankaracharya is pointing out to what man is doing and what man is ought to do! We may also check ourselves and estimate the degree of our 'foolishness' on the basis of these! From a comprehensive outlook, these verses state how we while away this entire life in ignorance of illusions and delusions, and miss out the discovery of our true, pristine nature! He says– the childhood is lost by attachment to playfulness; youth is lost by attachment to woman; old age passes away by thinking over the past. And, amidst all these, one fails to know his real Self, his true Self, which if awakened could have metamorphosed one's entire personality, making it divine and ever glorious!
So, the need is to go for this inner awakening! Once awakened, our choices, our decisions, our actions would be marked with wisdom. An incidence from the life of King Phillip can be beautifully annexed to understand it. Once, the Greek King Phillip was giving judgements for the cases pertaining to his kingdom. However, in that sequence, it so happened that when the case of some soldier began, the king fell asleep. But, the arguments and appeals went on. The moment the proceedings were over, the king woke up with a start. He instantly sat straight and posed as if he was listening to the entire case very attentively. At that moment, the minister requested the king to announce his decision. The king straightaway said, “He is a culprit and should be severely punished.” It was an absolutely wrong decision, which everyone sitting in the royal court knew.
When this decision was pronounced, the solider appealed, “Your Highness! This decision is incorrect. Kindly listen to my plea and show your mercy on me.”
In his air of arrogance, the king said, “Everyone knows that my decision is final! In fact, you also know this. Then, on what grounds do you appeal to seek my mercy?” And, saying thus, he laughed boisterously. The soldier was quick-witted. He said, “My supplication is against the sleeping King Phillip, and to the awakened King Phillip. I am sure that the awakened King Phillip will consider my plea.”
The king was left speechless on the intelligent remark of the soldier and, granting his request, he finally corrected his decision.
Therefore, it's high time that each one of us should wake up, shake away all ignorance, and rectify our choices, decisions, and actions! The longer the delay in this realisation, the harsher and harder will be the blows that our foolish decisions and actions will bring in reciprocation to us! It's high time to pay heed to the clarion call of realising our true being, the powerful being, the divine being!
Once again, hold on! Does this sound something not possible, not practical, or 'outside your domain'? Then, you are perhaps resonating with the reluctant person of the incident below…
Once, when Carl Jung was in Africa to carry out a study on a primitive tribe, he had to send a letter to a place that was around 120 kilometers away. He thus requested the headman of the tribe to send the letter through someone. The headman appointed a person for it and asked him to go to Jung. When Jung told that person that he was required to walk down 120 kilometers for delivering a letter, his face drooped. The man was rather left terrified on the thought of walking down such a long stretch! Meanwhile, the headman came there. On finding the man being reluctant to walk down 120 kilometers, he said, ‘Sir, let me ask him.’ The headman then reminded that person about his family history that was known for being ace runners. He made him count the accomplishments of his father and grandfather and the great grandfather… and that for a mere 120 kilometers, he was feeling nervous! It was in his genes and that by refusing it or acting cowardly, he would bring disgrace to his entire lineage! Aha! Once reminded of his strength, the man was ready in no time!