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to now has failed to unite everyone on a common ground that is advantageous and propitious for all beings, all that is outdated and outmoded needs to be deconstructed, leaving intact everything which naturally appeals and that has worked up until now.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.”
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.