Misconceptions about Spirituality

Dharmashikshan

        Most people, especially the younger generation, have a lot of misconceptions about Spirituality. Therefore, let us understand what these misconceptions are and ‘What Spirituality is not’.

1. Fear

        About 30% of the population feels that if God and Saints get angry with them, they will be harmed. As directed in letters which they have received in the name of Saints or God, many people send twenty-five to fifty copies of such letters to others, with the fear that if they do not comply, then they will suffer a great loss. Similarly, people give alms with the fear that if a person in the garb of a mendicant is hurt, then he may wish one ill and may even curse. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever to have such fears. However, due to the fear that if we err, a sin shall be committed and we will be punished by God for it, at least 30% people from society refrain from making mistakes.This is an indirect benefit of this school of thought.

2. Ignorance

        There is no connection whatsoever between education which gives worldly pleasures and ignorance about Spirituality. Approximately 90% people from each of the following groups – illiterate, those with primary education, those with secondary education, graduates and post-graduates are ignorant about Spirituality, since they have no formal education in it.

  1. An example of such ignorance can be seen in the article, ‘The Ganesh Idol from an aesthetic point of view’ which appeared in a local daily. In this article a famous artist writes, ‘The traditional Ganesh Idol is considered as one of the most beautiful sculptures. I feel like congratulating the anonymous sculptor, the first to materialise this innovative idea into reality’. That ‘Shri Ganesh is an idea’ is ignorance by itself. Deities like Shri Ganesh are not imaginary; they really exist and even have a form. This is what that the poor writer does not know.

  2. A saint was once invited to deliver a discourse on Spirituality in Mumbai. The organisers asked Him whether they should provide Him with a chourang (A small square stool used during ritualistic worship) instead of a chair, whether the table should be covered with a saffron cloth and if an oil lamp was required beside Him. They were unaware that Spirituality does not lie in external decoration, but in painting one’s inner self saffron (Attaining vairagya, that is, detachment).

  3. Sexuality and ignorance about Spirituality

    • A lady-seeker asked, “On the one hand, you advise me to practise Spirituality and on the other, ask me to lead a normal sexual life and ‘not to refuse’ my spouse. Is this not contrary to tenets of Spirituality?” One should note that, Spirituality does not prohibit sexual life. Saint Tukaram, Saint Eknath, our Guru His Holiness Bhaktaraj Maharaj etc. had children after they became Saints. The perspective behind this is as given ahead.

      • It is important to overcome sexual desires in Hathayoga; but in Bhaktiyoga (Path of Devotion), it is not important. When the state of spiritual emotion of the person practising Spirituality as per Bhaktiyoga becomes like ‘let the body be in the materialistic world, but the chitta (Subconscious mind) should be at your Holy feet’, he can live Spirituality by performing all the daily chores.

      • When the chanting of a person who is performing spiritual practice (Spiritual practice) as per Bhakiyoga (Path of Devotion) continues uninterruptedly, the ‘karmahe performs becomes ‘akarma, and as such karma does not ‘bear the fruit of karma’, it does not entrap you in the bondage of karma.

      • As and when our spiritual level increases, our own wish goes on transforming into the wish of others and then the wish of others is transformed into the wish of God. Hence, whatever happens at the level of a Saint normally happens as per God’s wish.

      • The destiny has to be completed only by undergoing it; hence, even Saints normally do not interfere with anyone’s destiny.

    • A woman suffering from depression thought that her sexual desire had decreased in accordance with her age. In reality, it can decrease with advancing age, depression and spiritual progress.

  4. Those following the Path of Spirituality differentiated between Spirituality and the universe. Therefore, they ignored the universe considering it to be Maya (The Great Illusion). Hence, the very zeal for living was over. People became helpless and inactive and led a life devoid of activity under the pretext of attaining Moksha (Final Liberation). This is not true Dharma (Righteousness). (This is an exact description of people performing vyashti sadhana. The life of one following the path of Spirituality should be beneficial for all Creation.)

  5. Ignorant notion that, ‘Those believing in destiny are cowards’ : It is incorrect to consider one believing in destiny to be a coward. He alone is the true brave one and has the potential to become a Saint.

  6. We firmly believe that the reason for the downfall of Hindu society and thereby the entire Nation is Dharma with all its components, festivals, caste system in it, untouchability, temples in every nook and corner with purposeless and shapeless statues.

3. Blind faith

        From the example given ahead, we can realise how Bharatiyas are deeply affected by blind faith.

  1. Vrundavan (A place in North India) is considered sacred since Shrikrushna resided there. Residents of Vrundavan believe that if someone dies in such a sacred place, the individual gets liberated. Hence, in Vrundavan, a blind faith prevails that the residents of Vrundavan will not be afflicted with any problem due to the souls of unsatisfied ancestors.

    The point to be noted here is that, if this were really true, then every corrupt person, a dacoit, a murderer, despite committing numerous sins would finally get liberated. If this happens, it would be injustice to others. God is impartial. The statement that if someone dies in Vrundavan he attains liberation is true only in the case of a devotee or a sinner who is completely repentant, and not others.

  2. At one place in Maharashtra, a Pomerian dog is a seat of faith for several devotees of Saibaba, especially the devotees of a specific organisation. It is the faith of devotees that ‘when Saibaba of Shirdi was alive, He gave His vision to His favourite disciples in the form of a dog and then He incarnated on earth in the form of this Pomerian dog’. A procession of this Canine-baba used to be taken out in a silver palanquin every Thursday and on festival days when Saibaba was alive. After ‘Canine-baba’ left for its heavenly abode, the devotees built a samadhi (Mausoleum) and even today, it is ritualistically worshipped with the same faith and a procession of its image is taken out.

    The point to be considered here is that if Saibaba had to perform the mission of an Incarnation, why would He take the form of a dog ? Instead, He could come in the form of a human being and easily bring about the welfare of many people. God incarnated in the form of non-humans like tortoise, pig etc., but there was a specific objective behind the Incarnation. Again, all those Incarnations took place in Satyayug. Since the sattvikta of man was higher in Satyayug, he had the ability to understand the language of non-humans; however, in today’s Kaliyug (Era of strife), sattvikta of man is too low and hence, such an event is not possible. God always incarnates as per the need of the time and to supplement His mission. Taking all this into account, it is undoubtedly wrong that a Saint would incarnate in the form of a dog.

  3. We consider a cat crossing our path as a bad omen. So should cats never be seen on the road ? If a lizard falls on someone, he feels distressed. These are not superstitions but are premonitions. Should they occur, one should chant God’s Name.

        We come across 20% people in the society who have blind faith. Although there is a loss of 10% to the society because of this, there is 20% benefit too, since at least some people refrain from performing bad deeds out of blind faith.

4. Misuse

        About 30% people make money under the garb of Spirituality, for instance by starting a ‘yoga’ or pranayam(Controlled breathing exercises) class. At one such pranayamcentre, there was a choice of 18 separate courses of pranayam for improving health, improving concentration, personality development etc. Names of the 18 courses were printed in their pamphlet merely to attract people. In reality, the same pranayam was taught in every course!

5. Cheating

        About 95% of the ‘so-called’ ‘Holy men’ are fake.They make money in the garb of mendicants. Some monks give talisman-threads to solve materialistic problems such as getting good marks in examinations, getting a good job etc. By doing so, they are not only cheating the society but they also make the society inactive.

        Some Gurus advertise through newspapers that they will initiate with a Gurumantra at a particular time. Disciples of some Gurus also advertise that ‘our Guru gives Gurumantra for Rs.150’. These fake Holy men should realise that, instead of roaming around adorned with gandha (Sandalwood paste) or tilaks, their behaviour should be such that people worship them, only then will they atleast be emancipated spiritually.

        Due to these fake Holy men, the image of real Saints gets tarnished. Also, many people lose their precious years in performing meaningless spiritual practice preached by such fake Holy men.

6. ‘All-knowing’ attitude

        About 30% people in the society try to educate the masses on Spirituality pretending to be very well-versed in it, when in reality they know nothing about it. For instance, knowing absolutely nothing about ‘Shriram’, someone wrote, ‘Ram was never ideal. He can never be the seat of one’s faith….. The concept of God itself should be uprooted’. Yet another said, ‘Now let us see to it that God retires!’

7. Of what use is it to us ?

        About 55% people feel, ‘let those who have a liking for Spirituality study it; of what use is it to us ?’ They do not know that, in the life of an average person, 20% of physical and psychological problems in wilful actions performed are caused due to factors other than spiritual. The remaining 80% problems are caused by spiritual factors alone. In other words, of every five distressed people, four can acquire happiness merely by undertaking spiritual practice; so, four out of five people in a family, relatives and friends definitely need Spirituality. spiritual practice enhances our ability to endure destiny. All this of course is from the worldly perspective. To attain Moksha, however, there is no substitute for Spirituality.

8. Secrecy

        Some people feel that secrecy has to be maintained in Spirituality. Why do people following Aryadharma observe secrecy in Spirituality? In this regard a Saint, Shri Gulabrao Maharaj says – ‘Only those who feel that there is nothing in Vedant other than idle talk say this. When there are trade secrets even in business, why should one feel that there should be none in Spirituality? Besides, one cannot understand the true meaning properly, despite voluminous writings in Holy texts. Secondly, knowledge from Holy texts goes into the hands of people who have no authority over it. Thus, a genre of people is generated, who impart knowledge to others merely by reading Holy texts without completely following the Path of Spirituality. When knowledge is revealed in such a manner, people feel that worldly life alone is more valuable than Spirituality.’

9. Misconceptions about spiritual practice

A. We will perform spiritual practice in old age

About 50% people know that Spirituality is useful, yet 50% of them say, ‘We will perform spiritual practice when we grow old’. There are four mistakes associated with this statement.

  • When there is no guarantee that we will survive till our old age, deciding that we will practise Spirituality then is incorrect.
  • Good physical and mental health is required to perform spiritual practice. In old age, since both these grow weaker, it becomes difficult to perform spiritual practice.
  • Just as it is difficult to learn any new skill in old age, so also it is difficult to learn to do spiritual practice then.
  • The number of sanskars (Subconscious impression) on the subconscious mind goes on increasing with age. In Spirituality, however, one aims at eliminating all these sanskars.

B. Undertaking spiritual practice of one’s favourite Deity or a Saint according to one’s wish

About 70% of those practising Spirituality fall in this category. Just as when ill, we do not take medicines as per our wish, so also it is pointless practising Spirituality according to our wish. When such spiritual practice does not bestow much benefit, one’s faith in Spirituality and spiritual practice begins to waver and he concludes that all this is fake. If Spirituality actually means forgetting oneself, then how will we benefit if we perform spiritual practice according to our wish ? Hence, performing spiritual practice after studying Spirituality or under the guidance of an evolved person is more beneficial.

C. Thinking that one should not get married

About 30% of seekers feel that if they want to make spiritual progress, they should not get married. However, this is incorrect due to the reasons listed ahead.

  • Some make faster spiritual progress whilst living in the worldly life.
  • If we renounce the world and retire to the Himalayas, we will not be tested enough, unlike when living in the worldly life where we are tested at every step.
  • Destroying the mind, rather causing its dissolution is the very essence of Spirituality. Thus if we practises it, we should not make decisions using our own intellect. Therefore, deciding to remain unmarried is wrong. Besides, if we are destined to marry, then we cannot avert it. In such cases, a seeker may feel dejected that he was unable to observe even this restriction of remaining unmarried.

D. Hindrance in performing worldly duties

Some feel that if they chant the Name of God as spiritual practice, they will not be able to fulfill their worldly duties. Such a feeling is absolutely ill-founded. Nowhere in the history of mankind has there been a case in which one has incurred a loss by chanting the Name of God. On the contrary, chanting the Name of God increases the power of concentration, and therefore, one is able to accomplish worldly duties in a much better way.

E. Misconceptions about the Guru

Some have the misconception that the Guru will eliminate their worldly obstacles. This is incorrect.The Guru has no relationship with worldly obstacles, but is concerned only with the spiritual progress of His disciples.

10. Reasons for misconceptions about Spirituality

A. Misguidance by ‘prominent’ members of the society

We should generally not speak on a subject about which we do not have adequate knowledge. Despite this rule, several ‘prominent’ personalities from other fields in the society talk on Spirituality even when they have had no spiritual experiences. Some of their listeners, especially the younger generation, not realising that their opinions should not be taken seriously, get misled and misconceptions regarding Spirituality are created in their minds. A few
samples of quotes on Spirituality by such ‘prominent’ personalities are given ahead. This may also be called idle talk !

  • A famous astronomer said, ‘In the Adhikmās (Intercalary month) of the Hindu lunar calendar (ideal to undertake vrat [Vowed religious observances]), one can perform the following rituals – blood donation, donation to a society dedicated to teaching physical sciences, participation in cleanliness drives, visits to hospitals to comfort patients, visits to places of historic importance, social work etc.’ He probably is unaware of the importance of undertaking vrats, the benefits of which are dependent on the sankalp (Resolve) made by Sages. Then, how will these modern observances be fruitful without the sankalp of a person with authority in that field ?
  • ‘My mother-in-law neither forced me to perform rituals of Satyanarayaṇ or Mangalagouri nor imposed her opinions upon me. I consider myself fortunate to have such a good mother-inlaw.’ – Quote of a famous political leader. Now, we will have to redefine a good mother-in-law as one who does not teach any religious principles !
  • ‘So long as we do not come out of this whirlpool of thirty three crore Deities and casteism, we will not be able to make any progress’, said a former Chief Justice of the Mumbai High Court. This implies that instead of corruption, bribery etc. it is God who hinders our progress !
  • At a symposium on eradication of blind faith, the speak ers were an industrialist, a senior politician, two scientists, a writer and a Chief Minister. None of them had any knowledge of Dharma, faith etc.
  • ‘How long will we continue to sing the glory of Rām, Bhim, Arjun and Hanumān ?’, asked a senior politician.

No matter how many praises are sung of an icon of Sat (Absolute Truth) like Ram, they will always be far too little. However, these people will never realise this as they have spent their lives in Asat (Non-truth, that is, Maya).

B. Spread of ignorance through the media

We have already seen how ignorance spreads through newspapers. The radio and television too project repeatedly that things such as casting an evil eye, black magic like bhanamati, possession, etc. are all fake when these really do exist.

C. Opposition to the spread of spiritual knowledge by universities

We had written to the executive committee of extra mural education of the University of Mumbai to include the subject of Spirituality in their curriculum to help to eradicate the misconceptions about Spirituality. In a letter dated 27th June 1988, the University rejected the request. Our universities will probably awaken once the study of this subject commences abroad!

D. Spread of ignorance by universities

In a television documentary produced by a university it was said that astrology, the science of mantra, asking a deity for answers through media such as flowers, leaves, etc. in a temple (kaul), etc. are all fake.

E. Indirect resistance from the government

A television serial depicting factual incidents beyond the comprehension of the intellect was discontinued by the government due to pressure from the so-called rationalists. However Shakespeare’s play ‘Hamlet’ which also shows a ghost was allowed to be telecast!

F. Expression of unilateral opinions

‘The upliftment of the lowest caste of people (harijans) and tribals will bring back Rama’s rule of Righteousness (Ramarajya) to our country, in the real sense….. The chiefs of all hermitages (ashrams), mendicants and saints should leave their ashrams and go into the world to serve the harijans and tribals’- the quote of a well-known Swami. One having true spiritual knowledge even to a small extent will never make such statements. Such statements usually stem from a desire for cheap publicity.

G. Ignorance and blind faith of rationalists

  • Intellectuals give ridiculous challenges to the omniscient and omnipotent saints ‘to perform a miracle and win five lakh rupees’. Miracles are not like movies to be watched by buying a ticket. To witness a miracle one needs devotion (bhakti) and spiritual emotion (bhav). This is precisely what these rationalists do not realise. They talk about money following the illusory doctrine of the west that everything can be bought with money. This is akin to a chaste woman who will not pose in the nude even if offered millions of rupees.
  • Also, they do not realise the simple fact that one can comprehend only phenomena pertaining to physical sciences and not those beyond them, with the intellect. Existence of The Lord cannot be proved with logic because it is a science based on the intellect and one gets the spiritual experience of The Lord only after dissolution of the intellect.
  • That which cannot be understood by intellect can be perceived only after practising Spirituality. However rationalists are not prepared to undertake the necessary spiritual practice. They are unaware that the spiritual intellect does not get activated without spiritual practice.
  • Rationalism of atheists and theists: The rationalism of atheists is based on human intellect while that of theists on the intellect of The Lord!
  • Why does research have to be done repeatedly in science?
    • A researcher puts forth a doctrine through his experience.
    • Thereafter the data (eg. case papers of patients) from which the conclusion is derived, is thrown away.
    • After several years, people ask for the authenticity of that doctrine.
    • Then the research is carried out again on the same subject by another researcher only to arrive at the same conclusion.

The only way to put an end to this vicious cycle, is by accepting the researcher’s word as the authority. Only then will researchers be able to march ahead.

H. Pessimism

Question: ‘Why is there so much pessimism about studying Spirituality?

Answer: First and foremost it is the absence of appropriate education. Secondly, people are not imparted information about this subject in their day-to-day life. It is but natural for people not to develop a liking for Spirituality, as no one provides true knowledge about God. Formerly preaching, prayer and the sacred and venerable holy texts and religious books were closely associated with life. Today due to the growing materialism, they have lost their importance and value in the life of the common man. “Money” itself has become the “Righteousness (Dharma)” of the new era.’

Reference: Sanatan Sanstha’s Holy Text on ‘Introduction to Spirituality‘ and ‘Spirituality