How to Approach Absolute Knowledge I



The very first stepping stone to enter into the world of Absolute Truth is initiation in some form or other. Every great (spiritual) teacher has recognised this fact in all ages. The Vedas are plainly emphatic about it:

“Rise up (from elevationism), awake (from salvationism) enlighten (free from ignorance and misappliance) after accepting (boon) from the Absolute.”

The sublime truth of the Upanishads was handed down through ages from the preceptor to the devoted disciples.

“Unto him alone is the Absolute revealed by sages who has supreme faith in, and are devoted, equally, to the preceptor and God-head.” None else can gain it.

In a supremely serene tone the behest of the Vedas comes to us: “With Samit (preparatory ingredients) in thy hand dost thou approach the true preceptor—one thoroughly versed in the Vedas given to the practice of them, for he has dedicated himself unto Brahma—indetermined or Personal Absolute”.

Lastly there is the authority of the Geeta. In a quite clear voice has the command of the Lord been communicated to the humble disciple—“You can know about the Absolute only from those who are acquainted with the primal causes of things, provided you attend them with confidence bonafide enquiry, and serving mood.” Thus Sri Krishna spoke to Arjuna.

But egotism will stand up in stern opposition to such a spirit, or ignorance will pervert it. Base self-seekers are not wanting—ready to turn it into a kind of spiritual (?) profiteering. So a right understanding of the principle of spiritual initiation is necessary for the regeneration of the individual soul. Initiation is (also) an outstanding feature of Indian philosophy and religion. Our purpose is to have a thorough and shifting enquiry into the matter free from all national, local or social bias and consider the obstacles that hinder us from accepting it. Then we shall be able to understand the true character of the preceptor as it ought to be.

Egoism is the worst hindrance. Egoistic philosophy in some form or other prevails in every land. Its keynote is the exaggerated assertion of individualism as opposed to the authority of the sacred scriptures:—although certain schools of Indian philosophy like that of Mayavadins have tried to veil such a spirit under a lip homage to the Vedas. But what can be at the root of such an assertion? The true character of egoism has been plainly shown in the Geeta.

“Carried away be egoism do men often perform dreadful, difficult penances and acts, extorting admiration from others and go against Shastras in their pride.” This egoistic philosophy has given birth to utilitarianism and has transformed itself into pantheism of various types. Its history elsewhere is interesting. Descarte started with the data—“I think, therefore I am” and was thinking ego is the basis of all knowledge. In his deep disgust for the then prevailing mode of religion specially Catholicism, did he discard everything from his philosophy that savoured of authority and started with the above data. But that is carrying things to extreme. Let us examine the data a little and notice its development.

Yes, one can assert the existence of the self and therefrom of all knowledge through its thinking capacity.

But every man thinks in his own way. What guarantee is there that my thoughts reflect the true nature of my soul or self? Then when variety of thought in different persons is inevitable how can I assert the identity of Self or soul in all beings? And how can I know its true nature as it is in essence? The high priest of modern western philosophy admits of his failure. Kant says that we cannot know “a thing in itself.” All knowledge is possible only through such categories as time, space, etc. themselves, as they now are, are but refractions of thought. In our land more clever thinkers have cut this Gordian knot in egoistic philosophy rather drastically. In trying to find out the true nature of the soul or self through this process of thinking, they have ultimately denied any positive existence to it. And thus Mayavadins and his school have practically become preachers of spiritual nihilism as Kant was an agnostic, of necessity. Then comes the question—‘Is the soul an isolated phenomenon in creation? If not what then must be its relation with things or that which exists? And how can we know that relation?’ This question remaining unsolved, the problem of the relation between spirit and matter has remained an yawning gulf in the world of Western philosophy. The Sankara school has made a short cut of this problem. Unable to find any positive existence of the self, they have denied absolute existence to anything knowable. And all botherings as to the true relation among things have been sedulously silenced.

Perversions of this egoistic trend of thought prevail in India in their most rank and monstrous forms. For here philosophy does not remain satisfied within its speculative region but imperatively requires to be translated into action. And abuses crop up initially round the selection of the spiritual preceptor. This cult of ego-worship is given either to the exaltation of passion and sentimentality or to the mutilation of the senses as false asceticism. It has tried to pollute and obscure pure theism in many ways.

We notice its influence also on modern Indian literature and on the outlook of the educated Indians of today.

Our present day literature is saturated with pantheistic ideas. In an overindulgent mood litterateurs, in this country, take everything as object for the gratification of their aesthetic sense. Even God Himself does not escape the invasion of this attitude—which is attributed to their anthropomorphic strivings. Their shamelessness knows no bounds. Carried away by carnal, though exquisitely aesthetic propensities, they do not scruple to exploit the supersensuous beauty of the Divine Lila and degrade it into means of gratification of their sensuous literary tastes. As for example certain poets in Bengal have tried to drag down the divine events of Brajalila into the mire of their intensely sensual aesthetic revelry. Inherently materialistic in life and aim, they cannot know that such unlicensed indulgence of poetic imagination constitutes the most objectionable prostitution of the true aesthetic faculty. Enslaved by nature, with things of three dimensions they cannot know the supersensuous. So is it not wise that they should know their limitations and remain satisfied within them? But in the height of their egoistic folly they try to pass off as the spiritual guides of the nation and servitors of the Absolute Truth, by giving their unholy interpretations of the scriptural texts. Sincere souls often fall an unconscious prey to their subtle insinuations, specially when they make sweetly smoothing protestations of piety and Divine Love. But such notes must jar on the ears of those who have heard the Name of Sree Krishna from the lips of the transcendental expert; however palliative they may ring to the deluded ear. Nevertheless a pantheist if he be sincere, may one day learn to really love God provided he be fortunate enough to approach the feet of a real Bhakta and discard his sensuous egotism.

There is another type of pantheists. They are more grossly base and obnoxious. For they work not in the field of literature or art but presume to usurp the kingdom of religion. We find examples of this type amongst certain privileged classes and castes in the society of Bengal. They are very proud to trace their descent from some great spiritual and religious personality of yore such as Sree Brahma and his descendants, Sree Nityananda Pravu or Sree Advaita Pravu. Yes, they can justly claim some social distinction as the lineal descendents of such godly personalities; although the genuineness of such claims are often to be doubted. But is it not ridiculous when they claim spiritual efficiency as well, because an Avatar or a Mahaprabhu once graced their line by his birth generations back? They have become gurus by right of heredity. Too much conservatism of Indian societies is a notorious fact. So it is not strange when we see people flocking to their doors to buy spiritual life with hard cash and these hereditary dealers in initiation carry on a brisk trade all over Bengal and in certain parts of India. Ah! Easy going egotists, fie on your lust of lucre! For a base farthing you do not hesitate to sell the good name of your glorious progenitor! Would your great ancestors have stood such nonsense? People are quite blind to the immense harm these persons are doing to society. Under the guidance of these pseudo-preceptors society has become stagnant and spiritually dead. All kinds of sins and sufferings have cropped up like rank vegetation.

Men nourish ego-worship in a hundred other ways and spiritual prostitution grows. There are, specially in Bengal, hybrid sects of illiterate rogues given to the lust of flesh of which they make cults and try to pass off as Maricoides or Khlyprs under the illustrious names of some great masters of the Vaishnava world. A true Vaishnava hates to utter the names of such sects as—Aul, Baul, Kartavaja Darvesh, Shai, Sakhiveki, Gournagari etc. Ignorant out-siders mistake these to be genuine Vaisnava sects. There prevails among these sects Guru worship of a sensual kind. These base carnal egotists are strongly attached to their so-called Guru as he abets them in the gratification of their sensual appetites and also satiates his own through them. These roguish pretenders taking advantage of distorted texts of the scriptures do not scruple to pass themselves off as God Himself amongst their self-duped disciples and work havoc on their lives. The religious history of Bengal abounds in nauseating tales of their devilish tyranny and yet a cultured race like the Bengalees has not fully awaked to the gravity of this horrible evil. We have dwelt upon these various aspects of ego-worship only to bring home to the religiously minded people that they should be on their guard against the deep designs of the professional gurus and avoid the pitfalls prepared by their consummate ingenuity. Let them seek for the right man in the right place; otherwise disaster is sure to overtake them in the most vital affair of their lives. The Narada Pancharatra says:—

‘A wise Guru is strong enough to save his disciple from sins and sufferings of the world, but if he be himself weak and inefficient how is that possible?’