One More Essay: Whither To?
Religion without God
The Path of Jnana
Be fearless and empty your mind of all superstitions and beliefs about God. Accept every tiny bit on the basis of objectivity and verifiability. Doubt and reject everything unless proved truthful, until you are convinced about the facts. But remember there are methods beyond those prescribed by physical sciences. The Books and the Scriptures, the saints and the prophets come to preach religion that dispels ignorance; however, it requires the proof - a scientific parameter - for its acceptance as true.
Start without God and end without God; but in this journey get the broadness of heart that would encompass every being on the earth. If this is done, even to a minor extent, you have become religious; if not, you still need to reject God with greater vehemence, for it is compartmentalizing your being into narrowness of sects and races, nations and boundaries.
Discriminate between the real and the unreal, true and false, permanent and transient, and reject that is discriminated as unreal, false, and transient. Stick to real, howsoever troublesome this world would try to make it for you, stick to truth howsoever difficult your emotions, feelings and attachments would try to make it for you; then only you can know. Knowledge is power; knowledge is bliss. Knowledge is the goal, and not happiness. Senses give pleasure but end in suffocation; knowledge initially is awe-inspiring but ultimately frees you from ignorance. Therefore, cultivate Jnana Tapas - austerities related to 'seeking knowledge'. Be rational and stick to 'reason', for the knowledge is based on these scientific foundations. Never reject 'reason', for the intuitive truth also accepts it first, only to transcend it in course of further quest.
Focus on the body-mind complex; the body that grows from childhood through adulthood to old age only to fall sick and die in the eventual course. It cannot be true then; discriminate 'I am not this body', and then concentrate on the vicissitudes and vagaries of mind. One minute it is deeply absorbed in writing this article, the other minute it flies to far off land where my son stays. It broods on the illness of my friend and also thinks of the lovely meeting with wife! This changing mental scenario from one minute to the next leaves the mind in the category of 'falsehood' without any doubt. Thus discriminate and give up identity with the mind as well. Reject both physical and emotional aspects of your worldly existence. The same thoughts are applicable to this whole universe: it was not in the past, it is in the present, and it would not be there in the future. Thus, this world also does not qualify to be labeled as real. The whole universe including this 'thinking human frame' is to be rejected as transient, on the basis of such discrimination, and according to our first statement must be renounced. Then what remains?
Some say 'nothing' and some say the 'Spirit'; the thing-in-itself, the substratum behind all ephemeral objects that is what remains. Try to realize, try to experience, that unchanging, all-pervading reality and you come to know everything. 'After knowing that nothing else remains to be known'. Reject everything that has name and form and reach the formless and nameless entity. Your mind and language, speech and senses would not be of any help there, but you would experience One Immaterial Simplicity, for, you now have become one with It!
This is the religious experience; this is the beginning of religion without God. I was a child, a young man, and now I am this old body; the physical characteristics changed but the 'I' remained the same. Think of that 'I' as the witness and you come towards the permanent truth. I am awake and am experiencing this worldly show; I am sleeping and dreaming the lovely dreams; I am fast asleep oblivious to outer world but in the morning I say: 'I had had sound sleep.' Who was the witness in all these three states? The same or different? Ponder over the question and you shall once again come to realize the unitary consciousness as the witness of these states also. Identification with that 'I' makes you religious, for such identification is the source of knowledge of reality. No faith, no God, or no superstition is needed for such experience. It is a matter of honest inquiry. Do it, for the humanity is in need of such knowledge, and you shall contribute to its enrichment. That is the utility: subjective experience of the final bliss and usefulness to humanity as large.
Open your eyes; come to normal plane of consciousness and the blissful memory of the Witness - the Atman - would now fill your eyes and ears, heart and mind with permanent joy. The very things that you rejected as false or unreal now start appearing as filled with the same Atman - the same 'I'. 'With every mouth I eat, with every hand I work, with every eye I see, through every mind I contemplate'. You assume universal dimension; you do not remain in the world, the world enshrines within your heart.
Joy and gloom, life and death, this and that all vanish in the transcendental journey through them. You come to realize the essence of the rope as rope; the illusory snake has vanished, for it was never there. The poor and the afflicted, the greedy and the jealous melt before your eyes and instead stands the Spirit to be worshipped as Spirit:
"Rise thou effulgent one, rise thou who art always pure, rise thou birthless and deathless, rise almighty, and manifest thy true nature. These little manifestations do not befit thee."
Love yourself, know yourself, and go beyond yourself as Spirit worships Spirit. Do not bring or invite limitations of compound matter and materialism in the realm of simplicity of immaterial existence. Shun the forces of emotions and feelings only to become as broad as this universe extending in infinity. Love, care, concern, and compassion eventually would merge into one unifying ocean of Immortal Bliss - the Atman.
c s shah
One More Essay: Whither To?