Every devotional channel we watched as a family early in the morning featured men with greying beards holding an open book and reciting religious verses.
Honestly, I understood none of what they uttered, and it is safe to say that no one else in our family understood them either. However, we would still get enticed by the rhythmic chants and move our heads to and fro in tune with the audience attending the live ‘spiritual sessions’ behind the TV screen.
I don’t wish to disregard their work or preachings. I only aim to establish a rational take on matters that influence millions of individuals and encourage them to make ‘not-so-spiritual decisions.’
My understanding of spirituality turned upside down when I heard a quote: “You Will Be Nearer To Heaven Through Football Than Through The Study Of The Gita.”
The quote was uttered by “Yuganayak” (Hero of the Ages) Swami Vivekananda! The man whose pious composure and profound pronouncements prompted numerous Western Historians to delve into the ancient Oriental culture of Hinduism and redesignate themselves as “Indologists.”
At first, the quote sounded like an unprovoked attack toward my newly fostered ‘Hindu sentiments!’ However, when I delved deeper into Swami Ji’s intentions behind uttering these words more than a hundred years ago, I gravitated toward an ideology that seemed to evoke a sense of gratification and calmness to reconsider many of my unfounded opinions.
At a time when India was navigating through the storm of ‘ill-founded prejudices,’ and the British colonisers were busy trivialising the oriental wisdom, Swami Ji bridged the gap between Spirituality and Rationality. His lessons on grasping the potential of human wisdom and the joy of giving back to society had won laurels from philosophers around the globe. Hence, holding the precept of “Yuganayak,” I want to speak about a normative version of “the pursuit of the divine.”
The market of “spirituality”:
Before delving into “what ought to be,” let us discuss “what ought not to be.”
Someone once told me, “Sadhus and Sadhikas obtain energy from nature, and they live close to the grassroots and sustain their living through very rudimentary amenities of life.” It makes sense why the genuinely enlightened individuals spent their lives surrounded by serenity and greenery.
However, in the era of social media, netizens are now seeking spirituality through paid courses available on the internet. YouTubers are carrying out live ‘collective meditation’ sessions, and every second podcast on the internet features young and aged “preachers” expounding numerous hypotheses related to ‘spirituality.’
It is scary to decode the pattern in which they speak: they use overcomplicated terms and phrases that are incoherent with one another. The only coherent thing in their lectures is advertising a ‘paid course’ promising to deliver a personalised path toward God. I don’t know if “faith can indeed move mountains,” but I know surely that their follower’s faith keeps their business moving!
Our generation is blessed with plenty of self-proclaimed Gurus and Digital Babas, who might refute ‘Darwin’s theory of evolution’ but make a holistic use of science to enter the digital space and meddle with our ability to decipher what makes sense and what does not.
One can not ask questions about the source of their compounding wealth because it is “heresy.” The holier-than-thou “Godmen” have “totkas” (pseudo-scientific remedies) for all your intricate problems, but their accountability before society is imperceptible.
They take no liability for the effects of their pseudo-scientific claims, and their provocative speeches often circulate online to disharmonise and divide the masses. They claim that they have no interest in worldly pleasures, but they can be seen boarding chartered plains and meeting celebrities and even politicians to further their cause.
“The path toward devotion goes via the heart of humanity, and no spirituality gets attained by disowning wisdom.” God, if there is any, would want you to comprehend different things through logic instead of blindly accepting what gets advertised.
Speak good and do good:
Sai Baba, Swami Vivekananda, and numerous other expounders of oriental spiritual knowledge spent their lives begging for food to satiate their hunger. They abstained from comfort and luxury and reminded their followers to ‘do good’ for the less privileged.
Swamiji had once again uttered, “Jeebe Prem Kore Jei Jon, Sei Jon Sebiche Ishwar…” (Those who are compassionate and loving towards other living beings are the ones who serve God.)
Hence, if the goal of spirituality or devotion is to attain salvation, there cannot be a surer path than philanthropy and benevolence. An atheist with an unbound compassion for the less fortunate and helpless is closer to God than anyone who believes in a dogmatic approach toward spirituality. If devotion is our cause, let us be devoted to the amelioration of our own kind!
I chose Swami Vivekanand Ji to corroborate my opinion because I believe that the doctrine of a human being who walked on the earth would prove my case more than a mythological character ever will. With my utmost veneration toward your personal beliefs and conviction, I request you to try a lesser-travelled path toward salvation: the path of benefaction and compassion.