ONE CASTE, ONE RELIGION AND ONE GOD FOR MAN (Chapter – 11)
What is given below is not an exact dialogue, that took place between me and the Guru. Many times we had talked about religious matters. Whatever I asked, and whatever came from him on these occasions are brought together and rearranged in a series, giving it a continuity. More than that, there is nothing imaginary or artificial in this. After writing this out in this form, first this was read out to Sri Bodhananda Swamy. Then it was read out by me personally to a group of ascetics assembled at Sivagiri. Next, this was brought to the notice of the Venerable Guru, through Swamy Satyavratha and permission to publish this was given by the Guru. Some ideas of the Guru about these matters, were put forward through the Welcome Address at the All Religions’ Meet in Aluva. Those points are not repeated here.
- C.V. Kunju Raman
C.V. Kunju Raman: Your advice One Caste, One Religion and One God for man is accepted as a slogan by your disciples and followers. But some people doubt whether this is a proper and correct advice and some others make fun of it. When Mahatma Gandhi visited this Ashram, he expressed his disagreement with this. More than that, people interpret and explain this in many ways. On hearing all these interpretations, Mahakavi Kumaran Asan had prayed God to save him from these interpreters. But even he had not bothered to give a comprehensive interpretation. People will not be satisfied without explanations, however logical the passage is. Therefore my request to you is that you yourself should kindly give a correct and complete interpretation.
Guru : How do you interpret this?
CVKR : The meaning of One Caste for man is quite clear, you yourself have given, “Manushyanam Manushyathvam Jaatir gotvam gavam yadha.” (As bovinity is the distinctive characteristic of a cow, humaneness is the quality of a human being). Every one accepts that all human beings belong to one caste, because of the distinctive characteristic of humaneness. No one has any doubt about it . About “One God for man” also, there are no problems. All those who believe in God will agree with it. The problem is with “One Religion”. You have explained through the poem, Atmopadesa Shathakam
pala matha- saravum-ekamennu-para-
(People’s understanding of religion is like that of the blind men and the elephant. Each one thinks that what he has felt is the shape of the elephant. Similarly each one feels that his religion is the true religion. He is blind to the fact that all religions mean the same).
The explanation you gave through this poem is not sufficient for the people. That is why I request you for another clearer explanation.
Guru : The essence of different religions is the same. Does any one deny that?.
CVKR : Some people deny it. The essence of theistic religion and atheistic religion are not the same.
Guru : That confusion is caused due to the meaning of the word Matham (could mean ‘religion’ or ‘opinion’). Atheism is only the opinion of certain groups of people. It never was the religion of a community.
CVKR : Some people say that Buddhism is an atheistic religion.
Guru : Is it correct? You are all Buddhists, aren’t you?
CVKR : This is the opinion expressed by some people who do not know the meaning of faith in God. They don’t know in whom or about what they should have faith. They have no idea about their own faith. I believe this comment about Buddhism is opinion of those who have no clear knowledge.
Guru : Buddhism cannot be an atheistic religion. A purely atheistic doctrine cannot hold so many people together for so long a time. Have you analyzed your own faith and decided whether you are an atheist or theist?.
CVKR : Yes, I completely believe that until now, I have been a theist.
Guru : I have heard that you had been arguing on behalf of atheism.
CVKR : No wonder you have heard such a comment about me. I argue against atheists who try to counter theists and against theists who try to counter atheists.
Guru : Don’t argue for argument’s sake. You can argue for explaining a principle or for clearing a doubt. Coming to the theistic religions, the difference is only in their external form, not in the internal details. Isn’t so?.
CVKR : When certain aspects are considered it is to be admitted that there are differences in the external as well as the internal details.
Guru : Well, What is the difference?
CVKR : Some say that the universe is created by a Creator. Some others, the evolutionists, say that the five primordial elements-earth, water, air, fire and sky-(emanated from cosmos). By their merging and union, life started in course of time. Another opinion is that the Creator generated the soul from vacuum. This is countered by the statement that soul is part of Brahman, or Brahman itself. Rebirth is a truth, or a myth, the theory of karma is true or false, so on. There are many other differences in the internal principles also.
Guru : There may be differences in the principles. But is there any difference in their objectives?.
CVKR : It can be said that there are differences. Certain religions hold the reaching of heaven as the final goal. Others aim at salvation, which is supposed to be superior to heaven.
Guru : Is it not quite natural that a person who has experienced the ecstasy of heaven, will have a revelation of something higher than heaven?.
CVKR : He should have.
Guru : He will certainly. The religion that speaks of salvation does not deny the existence of heaven. From this earth, it is believed, seven worlds are to be ascended to reach heaven. From there again there are four steps to salvation or moksha. They are salokya, Sameepya, Saroopya and Sayujya. Anyone who has reached any of these steps, will be desirous of the next higher step. Don’t you think so?
CVKR : But all religions do not recognize these steps.
Guru : What of that? Does any religion recommend descending instead of ascending?
CVKR : No. None.
Guru : That is where religions are alike. Religions have the role of creating in the human soul, the trend to ascend. Once the trend is set, the people themselves will seek and find the Ultimate Truth. Religions are only guides to help man to seek rightly. To those who have attained the supreme, religion is not at all an authority. They themselves are authority to religion. Did Lord Buddha teach the path to Nirvana after studying Buddhism?. He sought and found the way to salvation and then preached. Subsequently it became Buddhism. Did Lord Buddha benefit in any way by Buddhism?.
CVKR : No.
Guru : Christ too did not gain anything from Christianity. The same could be said about other religions too. However Buddhists benefited through Buddhism and Christians through Christianity. Likewise, all religions are of use to those who follow them.
CVKR : But the Hindus claim otherwise.
Guru : What do they say?.
CVKR : They base everything on the Vedas. They say Vedas are superhuman creations, which emanated from the face of Brahma. Hence there could be no authority beyond the Vedas. That is what they say.
Guru : What do the Christians claim about their Ten Commandments?. They too emanated from God?
CVKR : Yes, they think so.
Guru : So, Jehova knew only Hebrew, and Brahma knew only old (Vedic) Sanskrit, is it so?. When it is said that the Vedas are superhuman, it is to be understood that we do not know who composed all of them, or that the concepts emerging out of the Vedas are beyond human inventiveness.
CVKR : Buddha has denied the authority of the Vedas. Mundakopanishat also points out that the philosophy in the Vedas is inferior.
Guru : Don’t take any of them as the sole authority. All of them may be handy tools in the search for Truth. This is valid only for those who have an enquiring mind, with a thirst for knowledge. To the common people the text which is basic to the religion they believe, should remain an authority.
CVKR : If such basic texts contain advice that goes contrary to righteousness, won’t the people believe it?
Guru : Teachers of religion should take care of it. They must use discrimination. Dayananda Saraswathi considers Vedas as the basic texts, but does he not consider untoward parts as artificial and condemn them? All religious teachers should do like that.
CVKR : Am I to understand that all religious texts must be studied with discretion?, Is that your advice ?
Guru : Yes, that is my advice. I have already declared this in the All Religions’ Meet held in Aluva. Quarrels between nations and people will come to an end, when one of them defeats the other. Quarrels between religions will have no end, because one cannot defeat another. If this war of religions should end, all will have to learn about all religions with open minds. Then it will become clear that as far as the basic tenets are concerned, there are no substantial differences. The religion thus evolves is the one religion that we advocate.
CVKR : I have one more doubt.
Guru : What is that?
CVKR : Our community is very much enthusiastic about religious conversions. Some say that Buddhism is good. Some others feel that Christianity is good. Yet others say that Arya Samaj is the best. Zeal is in different directions. There are also those who say that religious conversion is not necessary.
Guru : Religion has two faces, internal and external. Which of these is sought to be changed?. If enthusiasm is for the external, it is not change of religion, it is only change in the external manifestations (rituals). Change in the internal sense, no doubt, slowly manifests itself among those who think. It takes place naturally with the increase in understanding, no one can curb it. If one who is identified as the follower of a particular religion, like Hinduism or Christianity, realises that he has lost faith in that religion, he should change his religion. It is cowardice and hypocrisy to continue with a religion in which one has lost faith. A change of religion will do him good. It will also be good for the religion he had lost faith in. It is no good for any religion to have non-believers in increasing numbers.
CVKR : Those who wish to continue in Hinduism , say that Hinduism as it exists now, is not good.
Guru : That means, they say, that Hinduism also needs changes. There is no such religion as Hinduism. Foreigners referred to this land as Hindustan, and the inhabitants of this land as Hindus. If the religion of those who live in Hindustan is Hinduism. The religion of the Christians and Muslims now living in Hindustan also must be considered Hinduism . No one says like that, and no one will agree with it. Now Hinduism is a general term used for those religions which originated in Hindustan, except Christianity and Islam which are of foreign origin. That is why some claim that Buddhism and Jainism are part of Hinduism. The Vedic, Puranic, Sankhya, Vaiseshika, Meemamsaka, Dwaitha, Advaitha, Visishtadvaitha, Shaiva, Vaishnava etc., are distinctly different religions. If they all can be grouped together and called Hinduism, what is illogical in blending many religions with minimal differences, sponsored by different teachers and thinkers, suitable for the land and climate and show the path of salvation to humanity, and designate this as Single Religion?.
CVKR : In this matter quarrels are there among not only Hindus, but also non- Hindus . The messages of Moses and Soloman who were of the pre-Christ era and the messages of St. Paul and others of post -Christ period are included in the single term Christianity.
Guru : More or less all religions have done so. If the advice of several preceptors of religion can be unified and named after one great preceptor, why not bring together all the sects and religions established by all preceptors and give it a common name as The One Religion, or Single Religion, or Human Religion or Righteousness of Man, or something like that? If doing so is illogical and irrational, this illogicality and irrationality have already entered, to some extent, in all the religions that are prevalent now. It is surprising that those who wax eloquent about unity in diversity, and diversity in unity of their own religion are incapable of taking humanity’s religion as a single unit, and observe its unity in diversity and diversity in unity.
When Mahatmaji came here he said pointing to a mango tree, that as the branches and leaves of the tree differ in size and colour each individual will be different from one another and distinctive. As long as this difference exists, the religions of man also will differ. What Mahatmaji said was right. If that is analysed logically, it has to be accepted that each individual has a religion of his own. In that case, The Hindu Rama, and the Hindu Krishna do not believe in the same religion. The 20 crores of Hindus will have 20 crores of religions. But there are some common factors in the faiths of these twenty crores, they all are said to belong to one religion . Similarly as all religions have common factors, it can be said that humanity has one religon.
No religion can stand, unless it has a hard core of some Eternal Truths or Dharma. Islam gives primacy to brotherhood and Christianity to love. But ignorant of the fact that brotherhood is rooted in love, and love is built on brotherhood, if claims are made that brotherhood is superior or love is superior, is it not a ridiculous dispute?
All Eternal Truths are of equal significance. Owing to the needs of time and place, it becomes necessary to give priority to one or the other. At a time and place where violence was rampant, universal teachers gave priority to non- violence over other Dharma. During Lord Buddha’s time, violence was rampant. Consequently he gave priority to non- violence. During the period of Mohammad Nabi, may be it was necessary to give primacy to brotherhood. Therefore in his religion, brotherhood is given importance.
What is India’s need today? Deliverance from the conflicts between castes and religions. Let us all study and understand all religions with open minds and equal attention and lovingly try to exchange the wisdom so gained. We will understand then, that the reason for conflict is not religion, but pride. The desire for religious conversion also will stop.
CVKR : In that case, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus must be allowed to join as your disciples.
Guru : I have absolutely no objection to that.
CVKR : I prefer Buddhism to other religions . I have respect for and faith in Buddhism.
Guru : But you don’t slight or insult other religions.
CVKR : Not at all.
Guru : Have you read Buddhist literature?.
CVKR : I have read translations.
Guru : Translations are sufficient for one to understand.
CVKR : I have decided to study the originals.
Guru : What is the reason for the preference to Buddhism?.
CVKR : In our land and modern times, preference to Buddhamuni’s advice is inevitable. I firmly believe that Buddhism is the best religion that offers the people liberation from caste conflicts and superstitions.
Guru : Would you like to join our ascetic group?.
CVKR : I won’t mind. But I can accept sanyasa of the Buddhist way only.
Guru : I have already expressed at Aluva, that Buddhist sanyasa is acceptable to us.
CVKR : Buddhist preceptors, do not give “Sanyasa Deekhsa” to asthmatic patients.
Guru : Do they give to rheumatic patients?
CVKR : I don’t know.
Guru : All religions will have some funny restrictions.
CVKR : I will receive “Sanyasa” deeksha only from your holy hands.