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Contemporary Inspirations

In this section, we give an article from the book Can one be Scientific and yet Spiritual? by Swami Budhananda published by Advaita Ashrama

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Dont Disturb Me OR The greatest Addiction - from The Ramana Way, Jan 2007.

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Can one be Scientific and yet Spiritual?



.....Continued from previous edition

It may well be argued: how did Dr. Sarkar know about the veracity of spiritual experiences without having them? Even if it is taken for granted that Dr. Sarkar himself had no spiritual experience, - to assume which we have no verified grounds - it may be pointed out that the people whom Dr. Sarkar was witnessing as having spiritual experiences, having been trustworthy in other regards, their testimony could be accepted by him as dependable.

What Sri Ramakrishna accomplished and demonstrated in his life had in it the power - potency of invaluable happenings for both religion and science. We cannot yet foresee them all. But what already started happening could well be taken as pointers for the future.

The Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in 1893 was an adjunct of the World's Columbian Exposition which had been organized to celebrate the four hundredth anniversary of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. One of the objectives of the Exposition was to spotlight the progress and enlightenment brought about by western savants through the cultivation of the physical sciences and technology. But as religion also constitutes an important part of human civilization, a Parliament of Religions was organized in conjunction with the Exposition.

Undoubtedly the Exposition spotlighted the advancement of the physical sciences and its contribution to human civilization in the most magnificent manner possible. But the unexpected thing which happened was the equally magnificent spotlighting that was received by Religion, as such, when Swami Vivekananda expounded it in the Parliament. The profound impression he made on his audience and the enthusiasm he created among men who were persuaded about the glory and might of the physical sciences, proved these two important things:
(a) that there was more to religion than they had imagined; and
(b) that there was as great a necessity of religion as of science.

In Vivekananda's exposition, religion while firmly standing on its own factual grounds, become more a wave of the future than a thing of the past, and it took science along as its trusted and respected comrade.

Symbolically enough, the Paris Congress of 1900 was attended by both Swami Vivekananda and Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose, two outstanding men from India, one representing Religion, another, Science. The Swami spoke before the Congress of the History of Religions and Bose spoke before the International Congress of Physics. Vivekananda, who had impressed his American and English audiences by his eloquent exposition of Vedanta, went to hear Bose in the Congress. In one of his letters he expressed great enthusiasm on the impression Bose had made in the Congress.

This enthusiasm of Vivekananda for the advancement of science underscores the traditional Indian attitude of religion to science.

to be concluded...

Don't Disturb Me or The Greatest Addiction

By Dr. Sarada

It is 'New Year' time again. It is time for celebration and also time for making resolutions that can be habitually broken during the course of the year. For, if we do not break any resolutions what would we do when the next New Year comes around? We would then be left with no resolutions to make! We may make or break resolutions. We may even keep some resolutions. But one thing that we will surely not do is to ask ourselves the question, 'What is a resolution?' Why should we ask ourselves such a silly question? We already know the answer. How can I say that I have made some resolutions if I do not know what a resolution is?

A resolution is an intention to act in a particular manner. 'I will not tell lies'. When I make such a resolution it means that I will always speak the truth. And what is the breaking of a resolution? It is the failure to act in the intended manner, which means I act in a contrary manner. All this I know very well. But have I noticed that in either case, in the keeping or breaking of resolutions, the result is only action of one kind or the other? In either case I act. The way I act may be different, but action is the common factor. At New Year time we plan to and try to and sometimes succeed in breaking one habit or the other that we consider 'bad'. But we never consider breaking the habit of action. We never consider ridding ourselves of our addiction to action. This New Year could we make a creative resolution? Could we decide not to act? Could we resolve not to indulge in any action whatsoever, to remain free from actions altogether?
Making right resolutions

Would that be possible? Of course not. We could decide to do this or that, but nothing at all! For a minute or two? Maybe. For an hour? Could be tried. For a day? Oh, come on! Always? Why on earth? Just like that, just for a change. But that's a crazy thing to do! What would we achieve by doing nothing? Besides, we need to eat in order to live, we need clothes to wear and a shelter. And for our food, clothing and shelter we need to earn a living. That's the bare minimum. But of course. And what's the maximum? No one knows. No one cares to know. Because everyone is absolutely obsessed with activity anyway.

One need give no reason to be active. No one asks, 'Why are you so active?' In fact, the more active a person, the more they are admired. The first thing that is asked of a person on being introduced is, 'What are you doing?' (This implies, 'What is your profession?'). That is if the introduction itself does not carry the answer. The moment a person says he or she is engaged to be married the question that follows is, 'What is your fiancée doing?' Nobody answers, 'Can't say what he/she is engaged in at the moment. I'll have to call and find out.' Everyone knows that the question refers to the fiancée's profession and answers accordingly.

If somebody happens to be simply sitting quiet, doing nothing at a given point of time he will certainly be asked, 'Why are you not doing anything? Are you not well? Is something wrong? Is something worrying your?' Because such a situation is so unusual that it seems strange to us and we are worried by it. Of course the probability of such a situation arising is very low indeed. Many people may be engaged in passive actions like watching television or listening to music but never will be found doing absolutely nothing! Even when a person says, 'I am not doing anything at the moment', they only mean they are not doing anything purposeful at that point of time. By no means does it indicate that the person is perfectly still physically and mentally.

There are many things that are of significance to us, many things that assume great importance from time to time and few things that may be important always. But all these tings fall in the realm of activity, they are in the area of 'doing'. We always feel it is important to 'do' one thing or the other: 'I must do this' 'I must do that' 'I want to do this' 'I want to do that'. In fact we are ruled by action. Every waking moment is filled with activity, not necessary physical activity but undoubtedly mental activity. Not satisfied with this, we continue to engage in activities even in our dreams. The little respite that we get is forced on us during deep sleep, which we fall into not by choice but by nature!

We are for ever being led on and on by the need for action. And we will go to any length to justify this need for action. We will say that it is our duty. We will say that we have taken on a commitment in our jobs that we need to honour. Of course it is always more important to honour every commitment except the one to ourselves and to life's purpose. The question is whether in actual fact our jobs require our jobs. We may say that we need our work in order to survive. If we take this first step of acknowledging that it is not the job that needs us but we who need the job, then the next question arises as to what kind of job we need.

Do we need a job that works us practically all the time or one that consumes the major chunk if not all of our quality of time? Of Course, it makes no difference because we can always keep our attitude to work right. Sure, Bhagavan has said there is no need to run away from activity or to worry about activity when it needs to be done. He has said so not in order to encourage us to drown ourselves in work, not even in order to allow us to pursue work of our choosing. Bhagavan has said so to take our attention to the Self instead of focusing on the nature of work or of anything other than the Self. Can we interpret it to mean that it is essential to work all the time till the last breath? If working was a must, would not have Bhagavan forced Muruganar, Viswanatha Swami, Kunju swami, Cohen, Chadwich and others who had renounced home and hearth to start working or engage themselves in some activities of the asram at least?
need time

Balarama Reddy got an SOS from his village that no one was there to look after his agricultural lands and he must return forthwith. He at once appealed to Bhagavan. The appeal was answered. The problem solved itself and Balarama Reddy did not have to go back. He could continue to pursue his spiritual practice full time in Bhagavan's presence. Sure, we may not have the strength or preparedness to give ourselves totally to self-enquiry. Does this mean we should give ourselves totally to work instead on some pretext or the other and keep postponing attention to self-enquiry?

If we do not have the strength to give ourselves to self-enquiry now do we expect such strength to suddenly bless us on account of the fact that we have been drowning ourselves in the ocean of actions? Are we aware how actions proliferate? Each action has results. And when we get the result what happens? Does the action end there? No, it does not. It leaves behind in the mind a seed of enjoyment, a longing to repeat the action. What if one did not enjoy the fruit of action? Then it leaves behind a seed of sorrow or fear, a thought that we must avoid that fruit. If we have to repeat the fruition of a given act, we have to act. What if we have to avoid a certain result? We still have to act, only, in the opposite direction! Thus if each action leaves a seed behind, do we remember what sprouts from a seed? A tree sprouts. And a tree bears many fruits, each having a seed that is a potential seed. Can we visualize how quickly one action spreads to become a forest of actions? Action will only to further action, it cannot cut the chain of action. Has not Bhagavan told us emphatically in Upadesa Saram that action can never liberate?
further actions

Self-enquiry will come only by practice and more practice, not by merely hoping for it. It will come by giving it more and more time and even more attention. It will come by constant reminders of the glory of self-knowledge. It will come by continuous remembrance of the meaninglessness of our present identity and everything associated with it, both good and bad. It will come by being with people who are like-minded, and more so by being with those who taste the truth. But where do we have time for all this?

In the midst of the busiest schedules we are forced to make time when our bodies rebel, when our health fails us for a shorter or longer time. In the midst of breathless endeavour, we are forced to take a breather when some crisis crops up. In the midst of 20 hour schedules we are ready to take on new commitments at the job or at home if we are attracted to that commitment. But we cannot set apart time regularly to be with ourselves and to relate to Bhagavan by meditating on his life, by reading or listening to or singing his compositions. We have no time to visit his shrine regularly or even on special occasions. We have no need to gather with devotees on special occasions, on Bhagavan's jayanthi and aradhana. We feel no compulsion to make time to attend events centered around Bhagavan. It is not a commitment like the job list in our diaries. We cannot say not to our bosses, we can say no to Bhagavan's presence within and without, again and again and again.

If life goes on in this way we cannot expect the pace to slow down of its own accord. Not today, not tomorrow, not even after we 'retire'. The more we indulge in actions, the greater slaves we become to actions and there well always be new and 'very good' reasons to continue to be such slaves. Our addiction to action cannot wear away on account of more and more of indulgence in it. Has any addiction disappeared by giving in to it?

Courtesy: The Ramana Way - Jan 2007.