As published in The Harmonist (Sree Sajjanatoshani)
Edited by Paramahamsa Paribrajakacharyya Sri Srimad Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Maharaj
THE spiritual Scriptures have declared that a human being is a higher entity than other animate and inanimate things of this world. The dignity of human life is due to the fact that it is suitable for the attainment of the service of the Absolute. No other entity of this mundane world is eligible to worship Godhead. There are beings in this world who are more intelligent, more powerful, more long-lived, more moral, than man. The celestial beings are in all these respects superior to man. But such superiority is not of much in as much they are unfit to attain the plain of service of Godhead.
The spiritual Scriptures, however, hold out no assurance that all men will, therefore, attain to the service of Godhead. The spiritual fitness of man is only potential. Man as man has, therefore, no right to the service of Godhead. Godhead is the Absolute Master of every entity including man. There can be no right as against the Absolute. But Godhead is All-Merciful. He has declared His Will in the Scriptures that He accepts the service of man if it is offered in the spirit of sincere submission. The Scriptures also lay down the course of training by means of which true humility of the soul can be realised.
Submission to Godhead is not possible except through equally perfect submission to the Guru. The Guru is also no other than the most beloved servant of the Supreme Lord, Who is sent down by Godhead Himself to exercise the Divine Function of imparting spiritual enlightenment to the benighted souls of this world. Unless a human being is sincerely prepared to recognise the necessity of spiritual enlightenment solely by Divine Grace conveyed through His chosen agent, he is not entitled to receive the Mercy of Godhead offered conditionally to all conditioned souls.
It is, of course, enjoined by the Scriptures that we must carefully distinguish between the real Guru and the Pseudo-preceptor of Religion. The Pseudo-preceptor is not a rarity in this world. There is also no want of willing followers of the false teachers of Religion who have always abounded in this world. The reason of this state of affairs is not difficult to find out. Very few persons of this world are seriously inclined for the service of the Absolute. Most persons are wholly or primarily occupied with the petty concerns of this ephemeral existence. The number of bona fide teachers of the Religion is not also very large. It requires no ordinary patience and honesty of purpose to find out the servant of the Truth. The busy persons of this world, therefore, are naturally inclined to be either indifferent to Religion or to patronise a hereditary Guru by overlooking his defects if any. This is the cause of the multiplication of false teachers and their disciples.
It is idle to expect in these circumstances that the Voice of the Truth would find many really unprejudiced hearers in this world in which most people are sufficiently contented with something else than the service of the Truth. Accordingly there is observable an almost universal laxity in the interpretation and observance of the injunctions of the Scriptures. This is one kind of evil. There is another from viz., an attempt to make a trade of Religion. There exist many such vested interests in this world in some form or other in this twentieth century despite its supposed want of enthusiasm for Religion, in a tangible form. The fetishes that are worshipped by the present Age are no less distinguished than formerly for the sinister quality of being able to draw away the minds of their votaries from the service of the Absolute. The breaking of visible idols may produce the no less dangerous taste for the worship of invisible idols.
The hereditary so-called Brahmanas of this country are not ashamed of interpreting the texts of the Scriptures in favour of their hereditary privileges against their own better judgement. The hereditary caste-system is a historical, never a scriptural institution. Contempt and hatred of class or individual are not taught by the Scriptures. On the contrary the Scriptures enjoin on every person, who is sincerely desirous of realising his spiritual life, to offer full honour to all worldly persons in accordance with usage and to accept no such honour for himself. In other words if a person engages himself in the vain attempt to reform this world by worldly methods, he will be punished for wasting his time and withholding his undivided attention from the Truth, by the prolongation and aggravation of his worldly affinities.
The spiritual training for novices provided by the Scriptures ensures perfect and equal freedom of choice to follow the same on the part of both individual and society. Only those who are willing to submit to the discipline necessary for the spiritual purpose are admitted as members of the spiritual community. This obligation is not binding except by the free choice of every individual. Any member can get rid of the obligation the moment he wishes to do so. Natural disposition of its individual members for the service of the Absolute by the Scriptural method is the only basis of the organised spiritual community. This arrangement is known a classification into Varna and Ashrama according to disposition and occupation. The present caste-system is essentially different from the Scriptural Varnashrama organisation. The caste-system is based upon the principles of heredity and compulsion. The Varnashrama society is based upon natural disposition and free choice of the individual.
The Brahmanas are those members of the spiritual community who are found to possess the natural disposition of devoting themselves wholly to the service of the Absolute by giving up all worldly occupation. In the Varnashrama arrangement only such persons are initiated into the spiritual life proper which entitles a person to the direct service of the Divinity. It is necessary in this connection to bear in mind the fact that archana or ritualistic worship of the Archa or Sree Murti (the Holy Icon) is also direct worship of the Divinity and is not, therefore, spiritually open to those who have really no taste for the whole-time service of Godhead. Accordingly the function of the archana is reserved for the real Brahmanas.
The Brahmanas are also forbidden to take any part in any secular pursuits. This prevents them from intimate association with the other classes. No members of the Varnashrama society must cultivate spiritual intimacy with those who are professed enemies of the system or with hypocrites. These are designated Mlechchhas and Sudras respectively. But, expect in the case of the Brahmanas, the other Varnas are allowed to have secular connection with all people. There is no question of contempt or hatred. On the other hand, as has already been noticed, all members of the spiritual community are strictly enjoined to covet no worldly advantages or honour to all persons including the Mlechchhas and Sudras.
The question of untouchability, which is found in some of the Dharma Shastras, probably is traceable to the growth of worldliness among the Brahmanas due to the decline of spiritual living. The special honour, that was naturally shown within the spiritual community to the genuine Brahmanas who coveted no worldly advantage of health or position, was sought to be monopolised by the latter degenerate scion of the Brahmanas for the worldly purpose on the hereditary basis. Contempt and hatred naturally actuated these worldly Brahmanas and led them to shut the door of social advancement, implied by their own privileged position, to all other individuals groups.
The reform of these evils cannot be effected by merely abolishing these unscriptural distinctions between individual and individual and between the castes. It is necessary to try to bring about a revival of inclination for spiritual living and the disposition that does not covet any form of worldly advantage of wealth or position. It will only make the confusion worse confounded if there is no subordination of the worldly to the higher spiritual purpose. Order and harmony are essential for the real well being of individual and society. Any attempt to create social order for the purpose of equalising worldly advantages, is bound to fail by reason of the absence of the spirit of disinterestedness. Equality of status is opposed to the facts of life. In this world everyone relies on his own private judgement. Is he to be asked to give up his right to private judgement or to cease to act in accordance with the same? If everyone really wants to retain the right, how can the principle of equality be made the basis of association between two individuals?
The Scriptures declare that the solution of this otherwise insuperable difficulty is to be sought by an organisation directed to the realisation of spiritual living by individual and society. On the spiritual plane every person naturally considers himself as really inferior to all other entities. This is just the opposite of the state of things in this world. Logically speaking there can be no real standing ground between domination and subordination. In this world everyone really wants to dominate. On the spiritual plane everyone really wants to serve. There can be no real association in this world for want of subordination. On the spiritual plane Godhead is the only Master. This makes perfect unity the natural condition on the higher plane by the method of unconditional submission to the Absolute.
We do not subscribe to the view that regards worldly equality as the summum bonum or as a really feasible and worthy ideal. No sincere soul need be so arrogant as to suppose himself to be fully the equal of any other entity who is really as much a part and parcel of the Divinity as he himself. Godhead is not our equal. Godhead has His seat in the heart of every entity and He regulates the minutest activity of everything. Those who do not understand this can alone consider themselves as the equals of any other entity. The same mentality also can look down upon any entity with contempt and hatred.