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Integrator of Paths, Faiths, and Philosophies

by Babaji Bob Kindler

Indian Philosophy and Practice in All Religious Traditions

In all religions — Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, etc., it is mundane convention which acts as the main despoiler, veiling most of the transformative substance naturally present within them. The world, and especially the Christian-based West, must take a cold, hard look at this fact and then fashion a swift return to the original teachings of Jesus still held sacrosanct by sincere and nonviolent Christian practitioners of the day. Jesus favored the view of “I and my Father are one” which has long been the essence of all Vedic pathways, and which is certainly present in the esoteric teachings of religions like Judaism and Islam as well. It is this subtle but crucial nondual element, called Advaita in India, which brings out the Truth in religion and philosophy, and Its transforming power as well, rendering the spiritual path both practicable and realizable. With Vivekananda as our guide, we examine this subject.

Much has been written and proposed over the last century about the precious, refined, yet rare art of integrating disciplinary practices, religious faiths, and spiritual paths. This bold move towards innovative integration, far from diluting or abolishing the religious traditions of the world, will reveal and offer up the bountiful but heretofore hidden spiritual wisdom which lies, mostly undiscovered, within the boundless and timeless terrain of Truth. Like a necklace of pearls which cannot be admired without the invisible string running through them, likewise it is verily impossible to benefit from the esoteric wisdom available in the religious traditions of the world if the subtle spiritual string of Nondualism is not recognized and duly acknowledged. It is this thread of Nonduality, called Advaita in India’s Vedanta philosophy, that subtly permeates the warp and woof of the sacred cloth of all religious traditions. Bringing it forward, in religion, philosophy, mind, life, even action, will afford the noble principle of Universality to manifest and mature on earth.

The Great Descent

The planet Earth first felt the fortuitous footfall of one who truly epitomized authentic Universality in the mid-1800s. This was Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, known today the world over. As He Himself once stated about the comprehensive spirituality He developed and exemplified for the world: “I have practiced and realized the goal of the different religious traditions of the world and, making a fragrant garland of them, have offered them reverently at the feet of the Divine Mother.” If one of the world’s most revered beings has exemplified this principle so adeptly, then it must be time for it in this day and time. He, Himself, declared that this Universality was the intended ideal of modern times.

Teach Principles, Not Power and Personalities

Greatly due to the descent of such a great being on the world scene at that time, the America of the mid- to late-1800s was fertile with expectation with regards to both religious pluralism and spiritual freedom. It was as if awaiting guidance along this fresh, new inspirational trajectory. So when Sri Ramakrishna’s disciple, Swami Vivekananda, arrived on the scene in 1893 at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, jumping the ocean like Hanuman in the epic Indian scripture, The Ramayana, the people of England and America, themselves approaching a new millennium called the Twentieth Century, duly received that guidance from a past master. Symbolically, the Western-dominated world of that century can be likened to the objective of Hanuman’s famous leap. He was set upon rescuing Mother Sita from the evil Ravana, she representing the lost and stolen soul of a nation and he symbolizing the rank materialism that leads the soul astray. As Swami Vivekananda himself observed after he arrived on Western shores:

"The West is a nation of Mammon-worshippers. Money comes before everything. Thus, it will take a long time for the Westerners to understand higher spirituality. Everything is money to them. If a religion brings them money or health or beauty, or long life, they will all flock to it, otherwise not. This is a thoroughly materialistic country. The people of this Christian land will recognize religion if only you can cure diseases, work miracles, and open up avenues to money, and understand little of anything else."

This is a sobering statement, but it rings of truth — and astutely summarizes the need to awaken to this moral and religious predicament. Due consideration is called for on the part of the people of this contemporary American culture, and all those who are emulating it. This obsession with money and power has been directly responsible for the deterioration of religious vitality, thereby also bringing about the downfall of great nations. For, when religion is undermined or compromised, then to be used for purposes of gain and profit like a business, the collapse of a society, which has been erected with such painstaking care and effort, is not far off. As the great Swami also noted:

"Those to whom religion is a trade are forced to become narrow and mischievous by their introduction into religion of the competitive, fighting, and selfish methods of the world. I pity them. It is not their fault. They are children, yay, veritable children, though they be great and high in society."

Sharp Solution

How can religious synthesis and spiritual oneness leading to Universality be introduced into the very lifeblood of the peoples of today? To attain this original and congenial ideal, and noting that religion up to now has failed to unite everyone on a common ground that is advantageous and propitious for all beings, all that is outdated and outmoded needs to be deconstructed, leaving intact everything which naturally appeals and that has worked up until now. In this crucial process, recognition of the ultimate Principle, call it God, must be adhered to first and foremost, acknowledging It to be, as all religions affirm, indivisible and supreme. Swami Vivekananda affirmed: “There cannot be any true reform without spiritual reform first.” Therefore, the scalpel of subtle surgery has to be adeptly applied to the dis-eased mind of conventional religion, returning them all to a fettle condition of perfect philosophical health.

The first cut of this sharp scalpel of deft and due operation demands that we leave aside current pseudo-religious factions which compromise true Oneness. Those who, in the name of religion, insist upon aggrandization of the physical body, identification with matter/nature, fantasy-prone dalliance with animal and elemental spirits, preoccupation with occult realms and powers, and the like, must peddle their pseudo-religious wares elsewhere, like in the marketplace of mundane human convention or the bazaar of high-jinx and hood-winks, rather than the Holy Land of Universal Religion. Additional subtle surgical procedures will also remove any hopeful connection with the politely patronizing areas of comparative religion, these being only a faint foretaste of sincere spiritual comradery between religious practitioners of different religious traditions. Shallow eclecticism will also have to fall away in order that we may approach the auspicious and well-defined borders of true Universality.

And after arriving at that radiant realm, an effort must be made to bring human maturation to bear in accordance with the principle of the “Universality of All Religions.” Here is where spiritual practice enters in, of the type which introduces the esoteric wisdom principles of different paths and ways to aspiring humanity. As Swami Vivekananda has stated, condensing his own vast experience into one terse bit of cogent advice: “My children, the secret of religion lies not in theories, but in practice.” This direct statement is in line with what the illumined Swami learned at the feet of his Master, Sri Ramakrishna, who averred that in order to strike water one must dig one deep well, not a series of shallow wells. This Great Soul is the chief engineer of enlightening excavations, for He Himself eschewed the hollow and ineffectual method of practicing many religions at the same time, preferring instead to take up each path and practice in its own time and on its own merit until the essence of each one was gleaned and gained. This incomparable method avoids shallow eclecticism and proves religious plurality, accomplishing the latter by neither comparing nor rejecting any path or way until or unless it is found to be unable to propel and carry a sincere seeker to the true goal of of religion — spiritual emancipation.

In this regard, it should be noted that Indian darshanas, particularly Vedanta, do not profess to be religions so much as ways of transformative spiritual life that successfully lead the soul beyond both transmigration and mere salvation. This is where a spiritual mode based in wisdom transmission and austere practice has an appreciable advantage over conventional ways and means founded on promises of salvation and profit, whether such profit is inherited here on earth or in some proposed heaven via a postmortem emancipation. The true definition of religion gets raised over this issue, and issues similar to it. Vedanta, especially with its Advaitic or nondual element intact and operative, comes to the fore in this regard to state that its eternal and time-tested axioms “will make a Hindu a better Hindu, a Christian a better Christian, and a Jew a better Jew,” etc. Knowing this, the great Swami watched as his timely introduction of Vedanta into the West showed its early effects, like its call to freedom married to its ability to chase all hypocrisy out of hiding:

“The Western people have the peculiarity of trying to force upon others whatever seems good to them, forgetting that what is good for you might not be good for others. In this nation of universal education, all seem to melt down into a mediocrity, and the able few are weighed down by the eternal money-making. But Americans are fast becoming liberal. Judge them not by the hard-shelled Christians that you see in India. There are those here in America too, but their number is decreasing rapidly, and this great nation is progressing towards that spirituality which is the standard boast of the Hindu.”

Mother India’s Astute Philosophical Hybrids

In this radiant realm of religious practice, most of the effort given to mature spiritual coalescence must get centered around certain special branches of philosophical hybrids that have been nurtured over many centuries, even millennia. Up to the present time these have only been utilized by the few, they being called yogis, sages, seers, and other luminaries of distinctive types. The recondite methodologies they utilize sport interesting titles: Integral Yoga, Purna Yoga, Synthesis of Yoga, Mahayoga, and Advaita Yoga, are among them. They all refer to the strong yearning for spiritual union (yoga) with Reality. These are special sadhanas (spiritual disciplines) which admittedly smack of the Vedic or Indian perspective. The term “Vedic” infers Vedanta, which is the real Hinduism, reflective of both the highest Truth and the many paths which lead to Its realization. Here we find reference to the secret and success of Indian religion and spirituality, productive of the revelation of the principle of Nonduality. And in fact, the most familiar, currently recognizable, and oft-quoted statement on the noble principle of Universality proceeds from the Vedas, quoted in Sanskrit as, “Ekam Sat Viprah Bahudha Vedanti,” which translates cogently into English as: “There is one Truth, though paths leading to It are many.”

Here is one reason why so many beings, even Western savants, have acknowledged and saluted Mother India throughout time. Her people, their culture, their religion, their philosophies — the entire history of a spiritually striving nation has always been intrinsically intertwined with successful integration. Other nations should study Her, especially the nondual aspect of Her philosophy. Even a deep look into her history, and how She patiently absorbed invading cultures throughout the sweep of time, utilizing nonviolence and graciousness as Her only lines of defense, is very telling and enlightening. It is actually a great boon that beings can kneel with reverence for both Her sacrifice and Her attainments and humbly learn from Her, placing the emphasis of this worship and effort upon what makes Her truly great — Her success in the acquisition of authentic spirituality.

The consummate spiritual path of today will naturally take the form of a comprehensive and all-inclusive multi-religious acceptance that automatically incorporates knowledge of and practice in the timeless darshanas (ways of clear philosophical perception) of India. For it is Mother India who has earned such distinct names as “The Cradle of Civilization,” “The Mother of all Religions,” and “The Wellspring of Nondualism.” Her “cradle” signifies a culture of forerunners steeped in Tantric worship. Later, at the time of the ancient Rishis, it reached the zenith of a well-balanced human existence wherein the twin ideals of Abhyudaya (the greatest material well-being for all beings equally) and Nihshreyasa (the highest spiritual well-being for all beings via qualification), got perfectly refined. Through a primal foundation and culminative experience, then, the “Mother of all Religions” stage emerged, revealing a race of beings whose entire existence was both fully given to and seen to originate from God.

Advaita Versus Dvaita Versus Convention

It is in the “Wellspring of Nonduality” phase, however, that the keys to understanding India’s integral success in dharmic life, religious observance, philosophical excellence, and spiritual experience are found. From very early on, when other cultures were still caught up in the fiery throes of formulating a civilized race of peoples via the questionable methods of war, exploitation, and domination, India, with Her foundational principles of ahimsa (nonviolent coexistence) and yuga-dharma (divine life in the natural context of cosmic harmony), had already developed a culture and caste system that generously contributed to and successfully maintained the difficult ideal of ongoing harmony amidst pressing chaos.

More importantly, however, Her sages and seers realized that rare and unique principle of nonduality (Advaita) which simultaneously balances the universe of name and form and lends it a sense of meaning while revealing the way to transcend the universal suffering of cyclic existence — birth, life, death, and rebirth all included. When other religions (by the time they had attained any maturation) were still puzzling over questions relative to the relationship between an anthropomorphical God and a sinful and suffering humanity, India was already producing hosts of realized saints, sages, seers, and saviors, along with systems of higher perception which afforded them the heretofore unforeseen ability to rise above and even fully transcend duality and multiplicity.

While exponents of various world religions (if they did not merely remain stuck in matters of worldly convention and mundane affairs) duly engaged in ongoing arguments about such secondary matters as the existence or nonexistence of God, the attainment of heaven, the purpose for life in the world, and the destiny and place of mankind in the material scheme of things, India’s seers, like Shankara and others, had already consciously pierced through the intellectual and cosmic layers of phenomenal existence to pronounce all conceptualizations such as God, gods, devils, objects, worlds, and living beings to be nothing other than nondual Reality dimly reflected through an ever-changing panorama of mentally projected names and forms. And this marvelous feat, representing the true essence of spirituality (and its supremacy over conventional religion), was duly accomplished by a superlative insight which, to this day, conventional religion is still incapable of understanding — that being the illusory nature of all realms of name and form, called Maya. For wonder of wonders, what religion has ever even suspected that the worlds of name and form, inclusive of all dualities and diversities, obscure Reality? And mere suspicions aside, who has then moved to detect and uncover such an enigmatic presence, let alone assign a title for it and thereafter fashion ingenious methods for its transcendence? This is true revelation, found outside of Maya, not within it.

Internal and External Revelations

As for revelation itself, the essence of which India’s seers arrived at early on, it lies at the philosophical center of all the world-religions. The great founders of world religions such as Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, all spoke in terms of inner vision and revelation. However, in all these cases the subtle force of this initially internal vision eventually got diluted and condensed down into a set of mere moral codes and ethical systems, or ended up inextricably associated with all that is sensational, mystical and, invariably, externalized. According to the ancient seers of India and their astute philosophical systems, everything that is perceived by the five senses, and abiding in the realm of change, is automatically suspect and therefore is to be examined under the microscope of refined human intelligence and, more importantly, under the impeccable scrutiny of trans-human Awareness realized via intense spiritual practice. This superlative process saves human beings from countless mistakes and sidetracks along the religious path, protecting them from both attraction to the occult powers (astabala-siddhis) such as domination over others, and philosophical misconception (bhrantidarshana). It was therefore that Vivekananda commented:

“I am perfectly aware that although some truth underlies the mass of mystical thought which has burst upon the Western world as of late, it is for the most part full of motives unworthy or insane. For this reason I have never had anything to do with these phases of religion, either in India or elsewhere, and mystics as a class are not very favorable to me.”

Oil and Water Do Not Mix....for Long

In India, God, called Brahman, the Reality, is considered to be nonmaterial, beyond the scope and influence of energy, and transcendent of thought. It is thus deemed Ever-Pure, Ever-Free. Brahman is to be left where It naturally resides, “on High,” to quote Christianity, attracting souls Godwards towards It rather than being pulled down to easy comfort zones — as if that were even possible. To the Indian rishi, or seer, it was never advisable to commingle that purely spiritual Principle of Brahman with the world and its concerns, nor was such to be attempted or intended; it was considered both unwise and impossible. Otherwise, a helpless trespass on universal Divine Law would be the outcome, followed by disharmony. Much later in history, when the Christ reminded both the Pharisees and the Romans that “one cannot serve two masters, God and Mammon,” He was rightly affirming what the rishis of ancient India had so deftly proclaimed much earlier — that is, and to utilize a metaphor, oil and water cannot mix. These two liquids may be able to coexist, but they cannot remain unified for long. And the fact that they seem to mix, and only temporarily, is a warning that must be heeded and taken as a clue. Watching and waiting for this inevitable separation process confers a valuable lesson. In other words, the “oil” of Consciousness and the “water” of matter cannot mix; they only seem to merge to the impetuous, impatient, and impervious mind. Thus, and though a seeming contradiction to the word “oneness,” God and the world are distinct from one another. Their twoness exists in terms of essence and nonessence, but their oneness persists on the level of pure and natural Existence.

That God and the world are two separate factions — this is real wisdom, a true revelation on the nondual level. No burning bushes, parting seas, or descending angels here; only a flat-out statement of fact that will, if properly understood, place living beings on the path to freedom. These ardent seekers may sometimes encounter and even take note of moral codes, mystic signs, and phenomenal visions, but they will not stop short or stagnate as the adherents of conventional religion are prone to do. That person or religion that wants to grow up spiritually must acknowledge Reality to be nondual, and follow up by perceiving all religions to be coexisting facets within one scintillating diamond of Truth. Otherwise, one risks complicating and distorting the natural way of things, as the materialistic West is presently doing. For, as Christ stated: “One cannot serve two masters,” and “Grant unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.” In this connection, Swami Vivekananda observed: “It is the tendency to bring everything down to the level of a machine that has given the West its wonderful prosperity. And it is this which has driven away all religion from its doors. Even the little that is left, the West has reduced to a systematic drill.” The words of the prophets are written on the temple walls. Short of merely noting them, India offers the world the way to realize them, and to thus beat a hasty path out of Maya.

The Indian Darshanas

To properly understand the unique nondual Principle gifted to the world by the Indian rishis, then, all seekers after Truth would be well-advised to take up and study the Indian darshanas. A darshana is a philosophical system which allows for clear comprehension of Truth. Buddhism is one of these Indian darshanas, a way based in the nonduality of Vedanta, and it is being spread broadcast in Western nations even today. Other notable vehicles for engendering spiritual insight are the Sankhya darshana of Lord Kapila, and the already widely-recognized philosophy of Yoga (here is meant the superior Raja Yoga, called “Patanjala,” not hatha yoga). The authentic Tantra of the rishis, should be included in this enlightening philosophical presentation as well, though in its pure form it is practically inseparable from Vedanta.

To explain more about these eternal philosophical systems, the metaphor of India’s healthy spiritual body is herein utilized. Vedanta represents the illumined mind of this well-rounded unit, consisting of the affirmative nondual Truth element allied with a spiritually salubrious attitude of negation that strictly disallows any form of ignorance or false superimposition (vivarta). Tantra is the devoted heart of Mother India’s spiritual body, moving with patience in a painstaking fashion to gather together all the experiences relative to God with form so as to further inform and fill out its existence. This divine couple, which can be described as Wisdom and Worship (knowledge of formlessness and deification of form), are the Two Great Streams which have run side by side with one another ever since the dawning of India’s far-distant past, commingling their pure and ignorance-slaking waters almost inextricably for the overall good of mankind over countless centuries. And if these two darshanas represent the mind and heart residing within the body of authentic spiritual existence, then it is Sankhya philosophy, that most ancient of Eastern systems, that symbolizes the life’s blood of this healthy body, while Yoga, the Eight-Limbed system of spiritual ascension, constitutes its vital energy, capable of refining all its tendencies in order to attain mastery via practice. A clarified mind, an open and loving heart, an unimpeded flow of pure blood, and a vibrant and vitally percolating store of vital energy — what problem cannot be solved, what ignorance not be dispelled, what insight remain unrealized with such a well-rounded vehicle at our disposal? Thus we hear Vivekananda saying:

“Our religion should be preached in Europe and America. Modern science has already undermined the basis of religions like Christianity. Over and above that, luxury is about to kill the religious instinct itself. Mankind ought to be taught that religions are but the varied expressions of The Religion which is Oneness, so that each may choose the path that suits him best.”

What is being proposed here is what is required for true spiritual advancement. Experiences in the world only, dalliance with the occult, conventional religion, and the rest will fail the higher goal; even moral excellence will not be enough for the realization of “The Self” within — the “I and my Father are One” revelation of Jesus. The acquisition of a perfectly balanced spiritual body which knows no bounds and lacks nothing in its singularly-directed impetus towards integral knowledge is necessary. That incomparable adept will guide aspiring beings along that path leading to the Universality of Religions which Sri Ramakrishna walked.

Universality and the Comprehensive Spiritual Body

This unique body described above is not one of mere physical proportions. It is a body of dharmic dexterity, religious reckoning, and philosophical potency. It is nourished on the nondual knowledge of the difference between the abiding Real (Brahman/Spirit/Reality) and the transitory unreal (the universe/matter/maya). It grows by affirming the former and renouncing the latter, but matures fully in the end by acknowledging the interconnectedness of both these principles while simultaneously acquiring the ability to concentrate on what is essential and thereby transcend the very idea of difference and separation. Perceiving what changes, acknowledging it, and verily renouncing it is therefore essential:

“The only knowledge that is of any value is to know that all this (maya) is humbug. But few, very few, will ever know this. Know the Atman alone, and give up all other vain words. This is the only knowledge we gain from all this knocking about the universe. This is the only work, to call upon mankind to ‘Awake, arise, and stop not till the goal is reached.’ It is renunciation, Tyaga, that is meant by religion, and nothing else.”

If we look at this equanimous spiritual body from the angles of path, practice, and philosophy, we can perceive and recognize its inner glory. Vivekananda states:

“What I want to propagate is a religion that will be equally acceptable to all minds; it must be equally philosophic, equally emotional, equally mystic, and equally conducive to action. If professors from the colleges come, scientific men and physicists, they will court reason. Let them have it as much as they want. Similarly, if the mystic comes, we must welcome him, be ready to give him the science of mental analysis, and practically demonstrate it before him. And if emotional people come, we must sit, laugh, and weep with them in the name of the Lord; we must ‘drink the cup of love and become mad.’ If the energetic worker comes, we must work with him, with all the energy that we have. And this combination will be the ideal of the nearest approach to a universal religion. Would to God that all men were so constituted that in their minds all these elements of philosophy, mysticism, emotion, and of work were equally present in full! That is the ideal, my ideal of a perfect man. Everyone who has only one or two of these elements of character, I consider ‘one-sided;’ and this world is almost full of such ‘one-sided’ men, with knowledge of that one road only in which they move; and anything else is dangerous and horrible to them. To become harmoniously balanced in all these four directions is my ideal of religion.”

And if we listen from the standpoint of Swamiji’s comprehensive philosophy, a fresh, complete and original definition of the Advaita Vedanta is heard:

“To put the Hindu ideas into English and then to make out of dry Philosophy, intricate Mythology, and queer startling Psychology a religion that shall be easy, simple, popular, and at the same time meet the requirements of the highest mind is a task that only those can understand who have attempted it. The abstract Advaita must become living — poetic — in everyday life; out of hopelessly intricate Mythology must come concrete moral forms; and out of bewildering Yogi-ism must come the most practical and scientific Psychology — and all this must be put in a form so that a child may grasp it.”

In this light, one can understand not only the extreme subtlety and difficulty of the worthy work at hand, but all that is required to make it possible and amenable to hosts of living, striving beings. The sacred offering must be both appealing and effective. According to Vivekananda: “I want to give Truth dry hard reason, softened in the sweetest syrup of love, and made spicy with intense work, and cooked in the kitchen of Yoga so that even a baby can easily digest it.”

A Bouquet of World Religions to Appease the God of War

India has literally and graciously handed us the system of the Four Yogas of Jnana (wisdom), Bhakti (devotion), Raja (meditation), and Karma (action), and also the knowledge and will to synthesize them. With this subtle weaponry lying about in her well-stocked philosophical arsenal, ready to be utilized for a necessary but nonviolent spiritual war, Indian spirituality brilliantly reveals and proposes the successful battle-plan of rendering all the world’s religions into one universal bouquet. Offered to the presently presiding war-god of competitive religion, it will soon appease its undue anger which has no real basis in Truth. This is a compassionate, holy ideal whose peaceful beauty and irresistible wisdom-fragrance will soothe ruffled philosophical feathers and heal seemingly unsurmountable religious differences. Since the temporary and fragile peace of bare tolerance has not worked to this day, it is time to usher in that “Peace which passeth all understanding” aromatically rising off the principle of the universality of all religions which will finally render mankind’s inhumanity to his fellows a thing of the past. For India is no stranger to wars and battles brought to Her lands by others, and even the fractious misfortunes caused by ignorant beings born within her own borders. She has learned first-hand the fallacy, futility, and fatality of such ill-considered wars, and the endless string of resultant karmas that they usher in. Noting both problem and solution via India’s own history, Vivekananda states:

“The modern reformers saw no way to reform but by first crushing out the religion of India. They tried and they failed. Why? Because few of them ever studied their own religion, and not one ever underwent the training necessary to understand the Mother of all Religions.”

As to foreign invaders in India, the most recent on record being the English, theirs was a world-dominating race espousing a warlike religion that, like all materialistically based nations, judged success by the amount of wealth extracted and level of power that could be wielded. Further, it saw suffering as a sign of weakness rather than a builder of strength leading, via sacrifice, to transformation. Thus Swamiji remembers:

“On metaphysical lines, no nation on earth can hold a candle to the Hindus; and curiously, all fellows that come over here from Christian lands have that one antiquated foolishness of an argument that because the Christians are powerful and rich and the Hindus are not, so Christianity must be better than Hinduism. To which the Hindus aptly retort that that is the very reason why Hinduism is a religion and Christianity is not; because in this beastly world it is blackguardism and that alone which prospers, and virtue always suffers.”

To both avoid error and invite higher wisdom, the superior person, race, and religion will move, gradually through forbearance or swiftly through focused practice, to borrow, absorb, and utilize a mature synthesis of spiritual practices and philosophies — Vedanta with its Advaitic element being among the foremost. Through a thorough study and comprehensive understanding of India’s philosophical past, and a thorough scrutiny of all the astute darshanas which have sprung up over many centuries of sincere spiritual seeking — all based upon the dedicated practice and direct spiritual experience of the Indian rishis — authentic spirituality will dawn upon the human mind. This is the perennial Wisdom Way which will render the synthesis of Yoga and the universality of all religions cogent and their implementation into daily life most effective. This concise synthesis, as in the integration of the Four Yogas, is the real religious path of the present age. To quote Swami Vivekananda:

“This is the new religion of this age — the synthesis of Yoga, Knowledge, Devotion, and Work; the propagation of Knowledge and Devotion down to the very lowest, without distinction of age or sex....”

Further, an uncompromised Universality leading towards the harmony of all religions epitomizes the consummate view which leads to the penultimate philosophical perspective. Thus, the great Swami declares: “Acceptance, love, toleration for everything sincere and honest — but never for hypocrisy — this is true universality. Unity is variety; see that universality is not hampered in the least. Everything must be sacrificed, if necessary, for that one sentiment, universality.”

Advaita Vedanta — The Unifier

Finally, there is the ultimate position Itself, which he proclaims adamantly: “On planes physical, ethical and spiritual, an ever-broadening generalization — leading up to a concept of Unity Eternal — is in the air; and this being so, all the movements of the time may be taken to represent, knowingly or unknowingly, the noblest philosophy of the unity of man ever had — the Advaita Vedanta.”

It is this Advaita, Nondualism, which represents, in full, the settling of all affairs, the purification of all minds, an end to differences and distinctions, and the granting of the soul’s fitness for comprehension of its intrinsic oneness with Absolute Reality, by whatever name one is pleased to call It — Atman, Allah, Adonai, Ahura Mazda, and many others. In this regard, all religions possess this nondual element, whether it is duly emphasized, purposely hidden, or left lying dormant. However, it is time to bring this infrangible facet of Truth to the fore in order to remove unnecessary suffering and help heal a world that is presently and prematurely heading for another adharmic upheaval, if not worse. Beings of this day and age, being born and raised as they are in a violent and spiritually uninformed world, need as much time to realize their true nature as possible. According to Vedanta, all beings deserve and will gain salvation, what to speak of liberation — the latter being their very nature.

For, unlike fundamentalism with its untenable beliefs, which scarcely represents religion at all, Vedanta points to an all-compassionate Lord and Mother Who, in turn, lead onward to afford the merging of dual mind, and all the worlds that it projects, into Reality. All forms, to the Advaita Vedanta, are soluble into Brahman, the Formless. So, since the gods and devils and heavens and hells are all conceptual forms, and find their basis in fundamentalism or dualism, perhaps the partaking of the principle of Unity will provide a more effective solution.

Integral Parts of Advaita Vedanta

Along with the Four Yogas and their synthesis, the sincere spiritual aspirant, seeking the highest good of all living beings, should study in turn the tenets of Sankhya which provide him with the cosmological basis for the universe and the knowledge of the distinct nature of the Soul; Yoga, which facilitates the extrication of the misguided and restless mind from preoccupation with matter so as to gain samadhi; Tantra, that teaches how to deify and worship everything endowed with form; and Vedanta that clarifies the distinction between the immutable Soul and transient matter in order to transmit to us the greatest of all lessons — that when perceived arightly via enlightened darshana, “All Existence is Brahman.” As the Great Swami states via his own experience: “Let there be but a dozen lion-souls in each country, lions who have broken their own bonds, who have touched the Infinite, whose whole soul has gone to Brahman, who care neither for wealth, nor power, nor fame, and these will be enough to shake the world.”

Indian philosophical systems and practices thus grace the seeker after Truth with new intellectual depths and experiential heights, all without disturbing one’s faith in the religion of their birth. According to Sri Ramakrishna, the paragon of Universality, for the adamant devotee of God it is not a matter of dilution or replacement, but rather of integration and expansion. Using the story of cows in the field to illustrate this, He says, “Cows let out to pasture mix happily and easily amongst themselves, but when they return to the barn at dusk the farmer puts them each in their own stall.” The religion of one’s birth, and all religion, is therefore to be considered sacred. But religions as separate factions and doctrines tend to pass through stages of accretion and deterioration over cycles; there is no knowing what condition a seeker will find religion in at any given age, in any given birth. An open-minded policy is thus the best to adopt by those who feel that living near to God, at the Source, is the ultimate solution.

Three Stages of Spiritual Growth for All Religions

And to those of a more narrow disposition, who arrogantly consider their own religion to be the only path and consider the faiths of others to be false or alien; or those who cannot either comprehend or perceive the efficacy of the principle of Universality and its Advaitic essence, to them Swami Vivekananda explains about the three stages of overall spiritual growth for humanity:

“Now I will tell you my discovery. All of religion is contained in the Vedanta, that is, in the three stages of Vedantic Philosophy, the Dvaita, Vasishtadvaita, and Advaita; one comes after the other. These are the three stages of spiritual growth in mankind. Each one is necessary. This is the essential of religion. The Vedanta applied to the various customs and ethnic creeds of India, is Hinduism. The first stage, Dvaita (dualism), applied to the ideas of the ethnic groups of Europe, is Christianity; as applied to the Semitic groups, Mohammedanism. The Advaita (nondualism) as applied in its Yoga-perception form is Buddhism, etc. Now by religion is meant the Vedanta; the applications must vary according to the different needs, surroundings and other circumstances of different nations. Dualist, qualified Monist, Monist, Shaiva, Vaishnava, Shakta, even the Buddhist and the Jain and others — whatever sects have arisen in India are all at one in this respect, that infinite power is latent in this Jivatman (individualized soul); from the ant to the perfect man there is the same Atman in all, the difference being only in manifestation.”

To further extrapolate on the teaching above, Dvaita, Dualism, proposes that God or Reality lies outside, possibly in nature, space, or the heavens, and is eternally separate from living beings. Vasishthadvaita, Qualified Nondualism, holds this view as well, but is modified by an emphasis on the interconnectedness of God and living beings, each one having its own place but sharing an intrinsic mutual relationship. Advaita, Nondualism, declares the absolute unity of God and the Soul, all differences being a matter of appearance rather than actuality. To clarify this further, Vivekananda used to give a cogent example drawn from the Christ’s teachings, exemplifying this triple subdivision aptly. He used the statement of Jesus advising to “pray to thy Father who art in Heaven” as an example of Dualism, and his statement of “I am the vine and thou art the branches” as an example of Qualified Nondualism, and the statement “I and my Father are One” to illustrate Nondualism.

This aptly intelligible formula, lying eternally at the very roots of Vedic philosophy, can make startling sense out of the potential morass of religious differences and philosophical conundrums standing in the way of a matured and accessible principle of Universality. And here, in this principle whose time has come, we shall see the perfect blending of science, religion, and philosophy. As the Svetashvataropanisad states:

“Practicing meditation, they realized that Being who is the God of religion, the Self of philosophy, and the Energy of science; Who exists as the self-luminous power in everyone; Who is the source of the intellect, emotions, and will; Who is one without a second; Who presides over all the causes enumerated herein, beginning with time and ending with the individual soul; and Who had been previously incomprehensible due to the limitations of their own intellect.”

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