Presidential Address at the Parliament of World Religions, Paris, 4-Nov.1972
H.H.Mahatapasvi Shri Kumarswamiji presided over the Parliament of World Religions in Paris on 4th Nov. 1972. This was the occasion when the audience had the privilege to listen to Second Vivekananda of India. The original Presidential Address of H.H.Shri Swamiji is reproduced herewith for the benefit of readers.
H.H.Shri Kumarswamiji’s Presidential Address at the Parliament of World Religions, Paris 4-Nov.1972
I am grateful to you for you have been kind enough to elect me unanimously as the President of the Parliament of World religions which will take place on 4-12-1972 in Paris, the metropolis of France. The conference has been convened by the venerable Madame Andri and her colleagues, where the universal aspects of religion are discussed with a meticulous care and a common meeting ground for all religions is sought for.
Religion is defined in a variety of ways. A definition is like a bull’s eye lantern which gives us a clear view but not a complete view. Leaving aside the attempt to define, I would like to say that religion is a spiritual quality of life. Its foundation is faith, its temper is holiness, its aim is the realization of God. True religion shows its influence in every part of our conduct, it is like the sap of a living tree which penetrates the most distant boughs. What we need in religion is not new light but new sight, not new paths but new strength to walk in the old ones, not new duties but new resolve to fulfill those that are plain before us. Human happiness has no perfect security but virtue, virtue has no security but knowledge and knowledge has no security but faith in God. God is therefore, the central theme in all religions. Religions proclaim that God is an omniscient and omnipotent being who sees and rules all things. This proclamation of religion is no mere fancy but a real fact. The world we inhabit has had an origin; that origin consists in a cause; that cause is intelligent; that intelligence is supreme and that supreme intelligence is God. The demand of the human understanding for causation requires but the one and the only answer; God. How often we look upon God as our last and best resource! We go to him because we have nowhere else to go. At last we learn that the storms of life have driven us not upon the rocks but into the desired repose. Remember that in all his dispensations God is at work for our good. In prosperity he tries our gratitude; in mediocrity our contentment; in misfortune our submission; in darkness our faith; under temptation our steadfastness and at all times our obedience and trust in him.
The universal element in all religions with the rare exceptions is the concept of God which is a dominant and recurrent note in the symphony of life. In the dim distant past an attempt has been made in the world, to organize ideas about God, man and the Universe. This organization has taken the form of religion. In India, it goes by the name of Hinduism. There is a Sanskrit saying which runs thus: Just as water falling from the sky goes to the sea so the salutations offered to various gods reach Him alone. This saying conveys the sentiment which indicates one of the fundamental attitudes of Hinduism, its great sense of understanding and adaptability. He whom the Shaivites worship as Shiva; he whom the Vedantins style as Brahma; he whom the Jains worship as Arhant; he whom the Naiyayikas call the first cause; he whom the Mimanskas address as karma and we may add, he whom the Christians adore as the holy Father; he whom the Mohammedans worship as Allah; he whom the Jews adore as Jahveh; he whom the Sikhs worship as the Ineffable; he whom all religions adore as the source of all glory and bliss; him we worship as Hari.
Spiritual values and social behaviour are not antithetic. The individual expresses and develops his personality only through relations with others. Society is the network of religions among individuals. There is a fundamental harmony between our relations with the Reality which inspires nature and history and our relations with our fellow-men. The aim of religion is the integration of personality which reconciles the individual to himself, to his fellow-men and to the Supreme spirit. To realize this goal there is a variety of paths. Each individual may adopt the method which most appeals to him. A medieval Indian mystic said: “There may be different kinds of oil in different lamps, the wicks may also be of different kinds but when they burn we have the same flame and the illumination.”
The second universal aspect of religion is revelation. The Sanskrit word for revelation is Shruti; it means what is heard. A saint, sage, prophet or rishi hears the voice of God in his still and serene heart. It is to the pure heart not to the proud head that God speaks, “Revelation is therefore, not an external message delivered to man from without, but it is a divine afflatus springing from within, the result of inspiration through God-intoxication.” It was for this reason that St.Paul said that God spoke through him. It was for this reason that Plato explained in his Ion, the origin of poetical composition through the divine afflatus. It was for this reason that the Vedic rishis were called the seers who composed the hymns through God-intoxication. Thus all the advanced religions of the world depend upon the revealed word of God through their respective prophets.
There is no conflict between reason and revelation; both are necessary to arrive at the truth. They may be compared to lights thrown upon the mind by means of which man can invade and explore the natural as well as supernatural aspects. The stronger the light of reason the clearer will be the knowledge of the things natural. Reason may be safely followed as a guide in matters pertaining to the natural plane, but the light of revelation is of a higher and more penetrating order. It can in a way explore the supernatural. Be it noted that the natural and the supernatural are not two separate orders; the supernatural is the natural in its true depth and infinity.
Physics tells us that red light has one hundred and thirty million of vibrations per second and violet twice this number. X-rays are about 75 times smaller than the smallest wave-length of the sunlight.
The cosmic rays are 36 times as powerful as X-rays and constitute 1/10 of all radiation that falls on the earth, except that received from the Sun. The cosmic rays are of so penetrating a character that they pass unimpeded through several yards of lead. But even the cosmic rays are unable to go beyond the confines of the natural and physical order. The supernatural order is wholly impervious to the cosmic rays. It is only the light of revelation that can explore the supernatural that can reveal the realm of the blessed.
The third universal aspect of religion is the harmony between morality and religion. Morality cannot be divorced from religion. There is no sure indication of decadence in spiritual matters than the severance of morality from religion. He is a moral man but he is not religious; he is good and virtuous but not spiritual are common expressions voiced by the majority of men. People generally regard religion as something quite distinct from goodness, purity and right living. If religion be regarded merely as worship combined with adherence to a particular form of faith, then the evildoers who are sometimes devout worshipers and zealous adherents to a creed may be designated as religious persons. Such a narrowing down of religion would render much of the Sermon on the Mount superfluous. But religion embodies even in its ritual some longing for that goodness, that virtue, that morality which cannot be divorced from religion. A life of moral excellence of good and noble character is the very end and object of religion.
Faith, hope and charity in Christianity; dama; daya and dana – self-restraint, compassion and giving in Hinduism; right knowledge, right vision and right action in Jainism and Buddhism; shariat, tariquat; haquiquat in islam; mansani, gavasni and kunsani in zorastrianism are the cardinal virtues of morality.
The fourth universal aspect of religion is grace. Grace plays an important part in almost all religions. What is grace? It is divine help descending from above; it is helpful light that is being thrown on the path of the seekers after spiritual unfoldment. Grace is the law of gravitation in the spiritual sphere. We are well acquainted with the law of gravitation in the physical field. There is mutual attraction between the seeker and Supreme. When the psychic being of the seeker becomes free from the attractions of the mundane life, it reveals the silent seeking which is answered by the Grace. Grace is redemptive force which moves in the luminous atmosphere. There is a law of spiritual inversion in the religious life. There is a constant tendency in man to become God and a contrary tendency in God to become man; without these tendencies there can be no spiritual life in the concrete. Spiritual life has this charm because there is a constant yearning in the human for the divine. This yearning and that seeking make the spiritual life a mystery which can not be understood categorically.
Grace is a wireless of a higher spiritual order. It is always to our advantage if we but heed and obey it. As by the physical and chemical powers of Nature, a worthless piece of carbon is converted into a brilliant diamond. So by the wonderful power of Grace even a sinner is transformed into a saint. For “the touch of the Divine Grace can turn difficulties into opportunities, failure into success and weakness into unfaltering strength.”
The fifth universal aspect of religion is transformation. Religion is a transforming experience. It is an act of self-discovery and contact with the Divine. When the individual withdraws his mind from all outward events, gathers himself together inwardly, there breaks upon him an experience that amounts to self-realization. This knowledge of the self involves a process of abstraction by which the seeker gets behind the layers of body, mind and intellect and reaches the universal self. It is the contact with this universal self that brings about the transformation of the human life into, the life divine. Man is born into the world of spirit and of affinity. Religion is sometimes defined as second birth which means the transformation of lower nature into the higher nature. Human life is characterized by passion at the base and peace at the summit. Passion is the lowest level and none can descend lower. Passion without which there is no life to begin with, must be transformed into peace without which there is no life to end with. When passion tends to pass over into the love of infinite, peace flames forth unchecked by any limitation. He who has achieved this transformation is a saint, and the saint is a harbinger of peace. God does never deprive the world of its saints, for they are the salt which seasons life. Men of economics, politics and science can only tinker but they can not transform; without them modern civilization can not proceed but with them alone it is bound to collapse. The saint knows the alchemy of transformation and makes the right effort. He knows that a spiritual direction given to the human life can alone life man beyond himself and invest him with faith, hope and courage. Where are the saints? They are there where they are awaited. People will ever bring forth those they hope for. They will manifest themselves in every group of people ready to receive them. How will be the rule of the saint? His rule will be free from all constraints, not through transgression but through transgression of the common rules. His rule will be suprarational, not through error but through intellectual mastery. Such will be the saint, the future ruler of humanity. That the future of humanity will be ruled by saint is not an accident but it is the logic of events. The ending of the rule of the rich and the beginning of the rule of the poor means the transfer of the basis of society from wealth to labour, from the power of money to the simple power of man and his work. The rule of warrier and aristocrat, founded upon power has given place to the rule of the professional and industrial class founded upon wealth and legalism. That again is yielding to the rule of the proletariat, founded upon work and association. That is again bound to make room for the rule of the saint, founded upon purity, simplicity and justice. Once the priests ruled the world, after priests the noble ruled it. After him the bourgeois ruled and now is the turn of the labourer. Thus all have reigned saved one, the saint. The world is dying because it was not ruled by the saint.
The world is being knit together into a family with the advance of communications and technology. The unity of the world is being shaped by the logic of events. We have now the physical basis for a world community but the world united as a body is groping for its soul. If mankind is to save itself, it must change its axis of thought and action; if the world is to endure, it must find psychological unity and spiritual coherence. There seems to be a spiritual awakening all over the world. Something great above traditional religion is stirring the hearts of mankind. This spiritual upsurge, this expression of the spirit from above mark the cross-roads of humanity. Today humanity stands at the cross-roads. Either it will have to plunge in destruction or it will have to take a decision to establish brotherhood not in name but in fact. This vision of universal brotherhood is finding expression through religious group of various kinds. During the last few years organizations inspired with the spiritual to what they profess, humanity will be brought into a closer union based on love and service. The future awaits the advent of God-realized men and women who are true assets of mankind. A united religions organization U.R.O. like U.N.O. will be a security against all kinds of violence and all expressions of evil. It is only when this is possible that peace will be established permanently and all will be happy and free.
OM SHANTI | OM SHANTI | OM SHANTIHI
This article ‘The Presidential Address’ is taken from H.H.Mahatapasvi Shri Kumarswamiji’s articles published in, ‘Silver Jubilee Souvenir’, 1990.