By Swami Ramdas
Religion, whose function is to guide and inspire mankind towards a life of mutual understanding, help and friendliness, has strangely been the cause of racial hatreds, destructive rivalries and false attitudes of superiority. We want a religion shorn of all its narrow particularisation and free from dogmatic beliefs, superstitious impositions and bigoted and sanctimonious ways.
We want a religion which appeals to the inner spirit of every man and woman - a religion which is universal in its outlook and embraces all alike within its fold. We want a religion which brings love and joy to our heart, and light and wisdom to our head. We want a religion that knits man to man, irrespective of any apparent distinctions, into a common human community on the earth. We want a religion that teaches us to sacrifice our little joys for the service of the distressed humanity. We want a religion that would give us the sight to behold all the members of the human race as belonging to one world family. We want a religion that makes us realise that we are the immortal, all-pervading and ever-blissful Spirit, and that God, we and the universe are one in the absolute Reality. We want a religion that would make us offer our homage equally to all the Teachers and Incarnations of the different creeds and sects in the world.
Religion is, in its real sense, as vast as the very heavens which grant refuge to all alike; as accessible to all as the very air that fills all space; and as equal in granting its favours to everyone as the light of the sun. You cannot confine religion within the narrow walls of a creed or society. So, to be the votary of true religion means to be utterly free from all cramping limitations and to come out in the open to grip the hand of a Hindu, a Christian, a Moslem, a Parsi, a Buddhist, a Jain and a Jew with the same equal love and vision.
The keynote of a religious life is selfless service - a service born of pure love and compassion for all beings and creatures on this earth. It is only such Divinely inspired men and women who can stand forth as the champions of peace and goodwill, because they are possessed with the exalted vision of life eternal. Every human being can raise himself to this spiritual splendour and peace. He has only to break through the shell of egotism and reveal himself as he is - snap the bonds of the flesh and enter into his immortal life of the Spirit. Thus liberated he speaks out:-
“Peace and joy being your inherent possession, why go out of yourself in pursuit of them? Being the light yourself, why do you grope in darkness longing for an outer changing ray, why deny your own everlasting radiance? Know that you are the Soul of the very universe - the eternal light, peace and joy. Realise your light and illuminate all. Realise your peace and shower tranquility on all. Say, ‘I am the all-blissful Spirit’ and shed your joy on all. Assert your Divine nature and liberate thousands and millions from the fetters of bondage. Be God and lead others to God.
Love all and hate none. Mere talk of peace will avail you nothing. Mere talk of God and religion will not take you far. Bring out all the latent powers of your being and reveal the full magnificence of your immortal Self. Be surcharged with peace and joy and scatter them wherever you are and wherever you go. Be a blazing flame of Truth, be a beauteous blossom of love and be a soothing balm of peace. By the power of your Spirit dispel the darkness of ignorance, dissolve the clouds of discord and war and bring goodwill, peace and harmony amongst the people of the globe. This is your mission in life.
Live not for passing phantasies of life. Bid for immortality by dedicating all the forces of it to the service of God in humanity. Away with petty ambitions. Away with a low and narrow vision of life. Arise in all the glory and majesty of your invincible Self. Be pure, selfless, patient and resigned, never allow the ego to raise its hood and drag you after it; but be full of power, grace and splendour of God, verily you are God.”
This is what true religion should make of a human being - all else is vanity and vexation.
(Swami Ramdas (1884-1963) was a one of the greatest saints of the twentieth century. Giving up worldly possessions at a young age, he became a wandering monk. Born as Vittal Rao in Kerala to Sri Balakrishna Rao and Smt. Lalita Bai, he worked as a spinning master in a cotton mill. In 1908, he married. He experienced difficulties, both in his financial pursuits and domestic life. At this time, his father gave to him a holy mantra to repeat. He quickly became detached from materialistic pleasures and left on a pilgrimage, taking on the name Ramdas (‘Servant of God’), and living on charity (though he never accepted money). His practice was to view the world and all that it contained as forms of Ram (here understood, as Kabir and other mystics did, as the Universal Formless One) – and thus to see everything that might befall him as the will of God.
In 1922, Swami Ramdasencountered the sage Ramana Maharshi and received his grace. As a result of this, he went into his first retreat, living for 21 days in solitude in a cave in Arunachala, near the Maharshi’s ashram. Upon leaving this cave he was filled with the realization that All was God, and nothing but God. Sometime later, an absorption experience near Mangalore fully erased his personal identity, so that only Oneness prevailed.
After continuing to live on the roads for many years, Swami Ramdas and his devotees established the Anand Ashram in Kanhangad, Kerala, in 1931. It was open to people of all faiths and castes. The ashram continues to exist, spreading the Swami’s vision of Universal Love and Service.
Swami Ramdas’ understanding of spirituality was universal, based on his insistence of the entire cosmos and all creatures as manifestations of the One. This series, drawn from his extensive writings, indicates how his understanding of God and religion can provide an ideal basis for promoting love and compassion among believers in and followers of various religions.
For more information, see: http://anandashram.org/