Swami Vivekananda’s vision


Why is there conflict among religions? Swami Vivekananda said: “Every religion has three components — philosophy and ethics, mythology and rituals and ceremonies. The more evolved followers focus on the philosophical aspects of faith, novitiates tend to be drawn to mythology. Still others tend to settle for ritualistic and ceremonial aspects of religion. All three are valid forms on the path of the seeker, provided mythology and ritual do not overshadow or obliterate the philosophy that is the core.

“So really, there need not be all this conflict or competition when it comes to matters of faith and religion. But due to our argumentative nature, we rarely tend to agree with what someone else holds to be his truth. No two people can fully agree on what they mean by the term `God’. To each of us, the concept of a Supreme power has come to mean whatever we want it to mean, or whatever we have been told about it, learnt, or know from our own experiences. Is it possible to establish a direct connecting with the Divine? Perhaps, for that would depends upon what we mean by the term God.

If we feel that God exists only in a remote, inaccessible place called Heaven, with unlimited powers and a judgemental nature, and think that attaining to the Supreme is possible only after having led a virtuous life, or when we die, then, we will have to be either perfect or die first, to have a direct experience.

But if we were to expand the definition of God, if we were to see God as the energy source behind creation, then we can indeed experience God or godliness, every minute of the day. Vedanta talks of an infinite God, in the form of spirit or Brahmn, which is all-pervading, and which is the reason and cause for creation, maintenance and destruction of all that we see.

And being spirit, energy or Brahmn is ubiquitous, formless and shapeless, unbound by time and space It is nowhere and everywhere It resides in our hearts and in animals, insects, rocks, mountains and the sky, for instance. It is Omniscient, Omnipresent and Omnipotent. Most religions would agree with the definition that God is indeed infinite and all-powerful. At the root of every religion there are core concepts. But as we move from core concepts towards the mythology or ritualistic part of religion, things become different and divergent.

If a person is truly religious, irrespective of his religious inclinations, he would see the unity in diversity and the oneness of all life on earth. Why we don’t see this is because the mythology and rituals of our religion have overshadowed the principles, got mistaken for the core values of the religion itself, and these have become the religion. This is the myth that Swami Vivekananda constantly tried to demystify. The core principles of all religions are easy to list and most are familiar with them: love, compassion, honesty, altruism, selflessness, forgiveness, sensitivity, sympathy and empathy, sharing, caring, kindness, charity, protection of virtues, the effort to overcome negative qualities, prayer and gratitude for all that we have.