One of the reasons why I was thrilled to receive the invitation to write for this column is its name, Sacred Bull. I love it.
So in my first piece let me talk about two great men who in a somewhat similar style challenged the status of the sacred.
The first was Confucius, who said, “To give one’s self earnestly to the duties due to men and while respecting spiritual beings, to keep aloof from them, this may be called wisdom”. Why does Confucius suggest that we keep aloof from spiritual beings? As for him the society’s welfare is more important than the sacred. Confucius knew that a nation which goes too much in
pursuit of the sacred (Religion and Spirituality) often ends up in slavery. His understanding has proven right time and again. Be it the great India or the mighty empire of China. They all ran up to the monasteries on the hill and then down hill.
If in the Confucian framework too much preoccupation with the sacred makes a society decadent, impoverished and chaotic, what is it that is of use to the society? It is doing one’s duty. Confucius encourages man to positively contribute to the society and be actively involved in all the roles he plays. For example at home he should be a good father to his son, good son to his father, a good husband to his wife; and outside he should be a good citizen, a good worker, a good boss and if he is a ruler a good ruler. Just by doing so a person effortlessly becomes a sage, a rushi which in Chinese means “involved” and “worldly”.
Moreover if one is successful in the “world”, he stands a good chance of succeeding in the other world also. Why? Development in this world requires organization. So does spiritual development. One who is successful in this world has developed the organizational wherewithal necessary to succeed in the spiritual realm also.
H.W. Longfellow in one of his poems, describes the following scene. God visits a priest’s cottage just as the priest is about to leave for his duties of feeding and giving clothes to the ragged have-nots at the monastery’s gate. On seeing the Almighty in his cottage, he wants to stay back and be with Him. But an inner voice tells him to go and to do his duty. With his eyes again and again looking back at the effulgent form of God, he goes to the gate. He attends to all who need him and only when his work is over hurries back to his cottage. On the way he feels that God would have left and now he might never have the pleasure of witnessing his presence again. When he reaches his cottage he sees God is still there waiting patiently for him. Looking at him admiringly, God says, “If you had stayed, I would have fled”.
Some of the most spiritually enlightened people in the world have felt that an overemphasis on spirituality dilutes action. Their compassion for the needy makes them cry out for action. They know that through such action one often finds his higher self faster. He escapes the airy fairy and the hocus pocus net and lands on firm spiritual ground. They know that spirituality is an important aspect of life but one should not make it the whole of life. Else he will realize that after some time the Heavens are also boring. Perhaps a time will come when we will listen more closely to these masters.