"It was dark before we started thinking; and it will be dark again when we stop" -Randall
Swami Ashokananda once said that it's not sufficient
to realize; one must also understand. That is, one must also think about it, and what it means against its philosophical background.
At first I thought that he had said it wrongly, and that what he had meant to say was that it's not sufficient to understand
something in your intellect; one must also realize it in one's heart, in one's life. But he wouldn't have made that kind of
mistake. He must have meant it the way he said it. He must have meant that it's not sufficient simply to have what is called
a spiritual experience; one must also understand that experience against its philosophical background. Otherwise it may lead
through a lack of understanding of ones own position and a lack of appreciation of the positions of others. This is primarily
a failure in education. But since all these religious experiences happen in this world, they must be understandable if we
can understand this world. That's where our education and our thinking are usually at fault. Very few of us have an educational
background wide enough to take in all the varieties of spiritual experiences; very few indeed, otherwise religious fanaticism
would, long since, have died a natural death.
Education begins with questions and thinking. In India it began with questions like the one those old physicists
asked long ago. "If what exists is changeless, how do we see change" and they said, "It can only be by mistake."
So they studied mistakes. But they had an earlier question. "If the world which we see is "The Changing," against
what does it change?" and they saw that underlying the world which we see there must be an existence not in time and
space, and therefore, changeless, infinite and undivided. And they also saw that the underlying existence must show through
in what we see because you can't mistake a rope for a snake without seeing the rope.
The educational background in early India was colored by the answers to questions
like these which made it difficult for religious fanaticism to take hold. Spiritual experiences tended to be taken as glimpses
of what underlies the world which we see. All the gods and goddesses, as well as natural phenomena, were taken to be manifestations
of that one underlying existence.
Europe and Arabia things went the other way. The underlying existence was largely overlooked and the questions were asked
about the visible world. What we call science arose with its emphasis on atheistic materialism, and it was at war with religion.
And the religious groups quarreled over the interpretations, of their own experiences, and the religious fanaticism held sway.
Now Columbus's people were Jewish, and they
lived on the Balearic Islands off the coast of Spain because they were afraid of religious fanaticism, and they lived in terror
of the Spanish Inquisition. They were looking for a way to get to India where they would be safe from religious persecution.
But they didn't dare cross Arabia where the Muslims held sway. So they tried to get to India by the back door. The rest you
So Columbus's people settled
in the Rio Grand valley where the name Colombo is common still, and where, till now, the people follow the old Jewish custom
of turning the Christian pictures to the wall on Friday nights, on the eve of the Sabbath.
Now the curious thing is this, that all the religious groups, regardless
of what they say from the pulpit or what they write in their books, believe that seeing the world as we see it is due to a
mistake. Otherwise, faith would play no part in spiritual practice. If your house has burned down, faith that it hasn't will
get you nowhere. But if it's a mistake, faith will get you out.
But what has happened is that the religious groups have interpreted that faith as faith in their own
religious superstitions. And religious fanaticism is rife.
Until we wake up and ask the right questions I don't think this problem will be resolved.
"It was dark before we started to ask questions;
and it will be dark again if we stop."
March 13, 2004