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Chancellor Amma Addresses the Parliament of World’s Religions on 3rd September 1993.
Salutations to all of you who have come here today, you who are the embodiments of Supreme Love. Words cannot express the gratitude that Amma feels towards the sincere organizers who have taken the time and energy to bring this highly beneficial conference into being. Though living in the midst of today’s highly materialistic world, they have dedicated themselves to the organization of this conference which is based on the uplifting and sustaining values of religion. Through their hard work and prodigious efforts, they have set an example of selfless service by which the world can potentially profit. Before such big-heartedness Amma has nothing else to say, and humbly bows down.
It is not Amma’s way to deliver speeches. Still, Amma will say a few words about things that She has experienced in Her own life. Amma asks your forgiveness, if there should happen to be any mistakes in what She says.
Religion is the faith which eventually culminates in the knowledge and experience that we ourselves are the all-powerful God. To lead man to the Realization of his own true state of Godhood, to transform man into God, that is the goal and purpose of Sanatana Dharma, India’s “Eternal Religion”, popularly known as Hinduism. At present, the mental lake is turbulent with the waves of thought. When these waves subside and die, that motionless substratum which shines forth is the essence of religion, the principle subject and goal of the philosophy of Advaita (non-duality). This motionless, unchanging principle is the very foundation of Sanatana Dharma. The great scriptural dictum, “Aham Brahmasmi” (I am Brahman, Absolute Consciousness), indicates the subjective experience of the non-dual Self.
“I am a Hindu”, “I am a Christian”, ” I am a Muslim”, “I am an engineer”, “I am a doctor”: this is how everyone speaks. That nameless, formless, all-pervasive principle common in all as the “I” is the Atman (the Self), the Brahman (the Absolute), or Ishwara (God). To deny the existence of God is to deny one’s own existence. It is like saying with one’s own tongue, “I have no tongue”. God is present in each one of us, in all beings, in everything. God is like space. Space is everywhere. The entire creation exists in space. Suppose we build a house. Space exists before the house is built. And after its completion, the house exists in that same space. Even after the house is demolished, the same space remains. God too is like this. He exists, unchanging, in the past, present and future.
You may wonder, “If God is all-pervasive, then why am I not seeing Him?” Electricity cannot be seen, but put your finger in a live socket and you will experience it. In a like manner, God must be experienced to be known. Stand behind a tree and try to look at the sun. You don’t see the sun, do you? You may say that the tree has covered the sun, but it is not so. The sun cannot be covered. Your eyesight is limited, that is why you do not see the sun. Similarly, even though God is everywhere, our limited vision prevents us from seeing Him. The attitude of “I” and “mine” has blocked our vision and bound our minds.
Sanatana Dharma does not ask us to believe in a God seated on a golden throne, high above the clouds. God is not a limited being. God is all-pervasive, omnipotent and omniscient. God is the Principle of Life and the Light of Consciousness within us. God, who is pure Bliss, is verily our own Self.
Mind alone is the cause of man’s bondage and freedom. Religion is that principle which releases the mind from diverse thoughts and emotions, and from its dependence on external objects. It helps the mind to reach the state of eternal freedom or independence. It is the attitude of “I” and “mine” that makes us dependent. Practicing the principles of true religion is the path that will lead to the elimination of the ego.
We cannot expect to find happiness and perfection in the world. Yet people struggle all the time to find them in the world. Over the years, many women have been saying to Amma, “O Amma, I am forty and still I remain unmarried. I couldn’t find a suitable man.” The men also complain and say, “Amma, I have been looking for the bride of my dreams. But I haven’t been able to find her.” They lose hope and become dejected. It reminds Amma of a story.
Once, two friends met in a restaurant. One told the other that his marriage had been arranged, and he invited his friend to attend the wedding. He also inquired as to whether his friend had considered marriage. “Yes”, replied the friend, “I was quite eager to get married and set out to find the perfect wife. I met a woman in Spain. She was beautiful, intelligent and spiritual, but she had no worldly knowledge, so I couldn’t consider marrying her. In Korea I met another woman. She was beautiful, intelligent and had both worldly and spiritual knowledge, but I couldn’t communicate with her. So again, I continued my search. Finally, I met her in Afghanistan-the woman of my dreams. She was perfect in all respects. I could even communicate with her.” Interrupting, the first fellow inquired, “Did you marry her?” “No”, replied his friend. “Why not?” asked the first fellow. “Because she, herself, was looking for the perfect husband.”
What is it that human beings crave? They crave peace and happiness, don’t they? People run here and there, seeking peace of mind. But peace and tranquillity have disappeared from the face of the earth. We are very enthusiastic in embracing the outside world and all its physical comforts. Meanwhile, the internal realm has become a living hell. There are more than enough comforts in the modern world. There is no scarcity of air-conditioned cars or air-conditioned rooms. These comforts are available everywhere on earth. But what a pity it is that the people who live in them still have no peace of mind. Many of them cannot sleep without the aid of pills. The restlessness and tensions of the mind have become so uncontrollable, so unbearable, that a number of people commit suicide even while living in the so-called lap of luxury, in these air-conditioned rooms. Those who show such a great interest in air-conditioning their cars and houses, should make some effort to air-condition their own minds. This is what is needed in order to attain real happiness.
Contentment and happiness depend solely on the mind, not on external objects or circumstances. Happiness really depends on self-control. Both heaven and hell are created by the mind. Even the highest heaven turns into hell if the mind is agitated; whereas, even the lowest hell will become a blissful abode for a man endowed with a peaceful and relaxed mind. Religion is the science which teaches us how to live a happy and blissful life while still living in this diverse world.
Faith and Alertness Are Needed in Today’s World
These days, our faith is like an artificial limb. It has no vitality. We have no heartfelt connection with faith, for it has not been ingrained properly into our lives.
This is a scientific age. Intellect and reason have reached great heights. But surprisingly, the most intellectually developed people still have great faith and reliance only in cars, TVs, houses and computers-all of which could stop functioning and perish at any moment. We are deeply attached to these things and to the small comforts they offer. If they are damaged or destroyed, we hastily engage ourselves in repairing them. Yet we do not realize that it is actually we who are most urgently in need of repair. For we have lost faith in ourselves. We have lost faith in the heart and its tender feelings. A man who shows great patience in repairing his computer and TV, shows no patience in retuning the notes that are off-key in his own life.
Darkness is slowly enveloping the world. It is a pitiful scene we see all around. Having dissipated all their energy and vitality by running after objects of pleasure, people are collapsing. Man has gone beyond the reasonable limits set by nature. This does not mean that one should not enjoy the pleasures of the world. That is all right. But understand this great truth, that the enjoyment and happiness you get from sensual pleasures and worldly objects are only a minute reflection of the infinite bliss which comes from within your own Self. Know that your true nature is bliss. Just as today’s newspaper will become tomorrow’s waste paper, that which gives happiness today can easily become the source of tomorrow’s despair. To understand this truth while living in the world is what religion teaches us.
The mind can be compared to a pendulum. Like the incessant movement of a clock’s pendulum, the pendulum of the mind swings intermittently from happiness to sorrow and back again. When the pendulum of the clock moves to one extreme, it is only gaining enough momentum to swing back to the other end. Likewise, when the pendulum of the mind moves towards happiness, it is only gaining the momentum to reach the other pole of sorrow. Real peace and happiness can be experienced only when the pendulum of the mind stops swinging altogether. From that stillness ensues real peace and bliss. This state of perfect stillness is verily the essence of life. Religion asks us to be constantly alert. A bird perched on a small twig is aware that at any moment, with the slightest breeze, the twig beneath it might break. So the bird is ever on the alert, ready to fly. Likewise, all of us are leaning on the objects of the world which can collapse at any moment. People ask, “Are you then telling us to abandon this world, to go to a secluded place and sit idle with our eyes closed?” No, that is not so. Be not lazy and lethargic. Perform your duties in the world. Engage yourselves in work. You can work to acquire wealth and to enjoy life, but try to remember that all this acquiring, possessing and preserving is like keeping a comb for a bald head. Irrespective of time and place, death will defeat us, snatching away all that we have. At the time of death, we will have to leave everything. Nothing or no one will come to our aid. Therefore, religion advises us: “Understand that the purpose of this precious life is not only to nourish your body, but to evolve to the state of Perfection.” If a person lives a life knowing and understanding the ephemeral nature of the world, he or she can still lovingly embrace life, without breaking down or losing all courage whenever difficulties arise. A person who does not know how to swim, is at the mercy of a turbulent ocean. Its waves can easily overpower him and pull him down into the depths. However, to play in the ocean is a delightful game for a person who knows how to swim. He cannot easily be tossed about by the waves.
In a similar manner, the diverse and contradictory nature of life is a delightful play for one who is aware of life’s ever-changing nature. He can smilingly welcome both the negative and positive experiences of life with equal vision. But for those who do not have this awareness, life becomes an unbearable burden, filled with sorrow. True religious principles give us the strength and the courage to confront the difficult situations of life with a calm and balanced mind. Religion paves the way towards embracing this life with even greater joy, zest and confidence. For one who has truly imbibed the principles of religion, life is like the joyful play of an innocent child.
Today’s world tries to evaluate religious principles by observing the actions of certain individuals, performed in the name of religion. They then judge the whole of religion based on the misdeeds of a few. This is like discarding the baby with the bath water. It is like condemning all medicines and doctors for the wrong prescription given by a single doctor. Individuals are sometimes good and sometimes bad. They have weaknesses and may lack discrimination. It is wrong to impose the faults and weaknesses that you see in them on the principles of religion.
It is the practice of religious principles that fills human life with vitality and energy. Without religion and faith, life on earth would be empty. Like a corpse adorned with an exquisite costume, the beauty and pleasures of life would be only superficial. Without religion, our minds become benumbed and barren. It is only because people have imbibed at least a little bit of religion and spirituality that there is still some beauty, vitality and harmony in our lives.
The Declining State of Religion Today
Religion contains the essential principles of life by which egotism and narrow-mindedness are eliminated. But sometimes, due to lack of proper understanding, the same religion becomes a breeding ground for these negative qualities. As a result of egotism, narrow-mindedness and competition, quarrels arise. They arise because people have failed to imbibe the essence of religion.
Today, there are thousands who are ready to die for their religion, but none who are willing to live by its principles. People do not realize that religion is something to be lived. They forget that it has to be applied and practiced in our day to day lives. “My religion is the best! My religion is the greatest!” says one. “No, it is my religion that’s the best and the greatest!” says another. Thus, the clamor continues. Because of this narrow vision and all the envy that exists, the true essence and message of religion is lost to the people.
Thinking of the present day quarrels which exist among religions, Amma is reminded of a story. Once, there were two patients staying in separate wards of the same hospital, and each one of them was being cared for by relatives. The patients were very ill and both were desperately crying out in pain. A relative of each went to obtain some urgently needed medication. Upon returning to the hospital, they met in a narrow doorway which could accommodate only one person at a time. Each person wanted to go through before the other, and neither of them would give way. Both insisted on being first, and a big quarrel ensued. While the patients were screaming in unbearable pain, their relatives continued to fight, each one still clutching the medicine in his hand. We often find the followers of different religions enacting the roles of these two relatives. Blinded by the external trappings of their faith, they fail to grasp its true essence and spirit. Instead of moving towards God, in the name of religion they actually drag themselves down.
This is the pitiful state of religion in the modern age. Owing to this unyielding and arrogantly competitive attitude, people have neither patience nor forbearance, and have lost their capacity to love.
All the members of a family will probably not be of the same nature or mental caliber. There may be one person who acts and speaks without discrimination or who gets extremely angry, thereby upsetting the entire household. But in the same family there may be one person whose nature is quiet and calm. He might be a person who is endowed with humility, sharp discrimination and great clarity of vision. Now the question is, who or what maintains the integrity and harmony of that family? Without much deliberation, one can easily reply that it is the latter’s qualities of humility, discrimination and goodness that hold the family and its members together. One person’s anger and lack of discrimination is balanced by another person’s calmness, humility and prudence. Had the characteristics of the angry, indiscriminate family member prevailed, the family would have disintegrated long ago. Likewise, even though today’s world is confronting a great threat, it is the patience, love, compassion, self-sacrifice and humility of the Mahatmas (Great Souls) which sustain and preserve the harmony and integrity of the world. The darkness of our age can be completely eliminated if, in each family, there is at least one member who is dedicated and willing to adhere to the essential principles of true religion. When we truly imbibe the spirit of religion, the sorrow and suffering of others becomes our own. Compassion arises and we are able to sympathize with the pain and suffering of others. Only through the experience of oneness with the Self can we feel real compassion and concern.
Amma will tell a story. A person who lived in an apartment was suffering from cancer. Because of his affliction, he was crying and was in intense pain. He was so poor that he did not have enough money to buy a painkiller for a little relief from the agonizing pain. At the same time, in the adjacent apartment, another person was engaged in wanton enjoyment, seeking pleasure in alcohol, drugs, and through his association with women. If he had used the money he was wasting on destroying himself to help the poor man next door, the suffering of the sick man would have been mitigated. Furthermore, his own self-destructive tendencies and selfishness would have ended. To show compassion towards the poor and suffering people, that is our duty to God. Only such love, compassion and consideration would lead to harmony in the world.
If we accidentally happen to poke our eye with our own finger, do we punish the finger? No. We simply try to soothe the pain. Why do we not punish the finger? Because both are part of us, both are ours. We see ourselves in both the eye and the finger. In the same way, we should be able to see ourselves, our own Self, in all beings. If we can do this, we can easily forgive the mistakes of others. To be able to love and forgive others, seeing ourselves in them, seeing their faults as our own faults, that is the true spirit of religion.
Gold is in itself beautiful, lustrous and precious. But if it also had fragrance, how much more would be its value and charm! Meditation and religious or spiritual practices are indeed valuable. But if along with meditation and worship, one also has compassion for one’s fellow men, it is like gold with a fragrance, something incredibly special and unique.
Religion is the secret of life. It teaches us to love, to serve, to forgive, to endure, and to interact with our brothers and sisters with empathy and compassion. Advaita (non-duality) is a purely subjective experience. But in daily life it may be expressed as love and compassion. This is the great lesson taught by the great saints and sages of India, the exponents of Sanatana Dharma.
The Role of Love and Compassion in Religion
True religion is a language forgotten by modern man. We have forgotten the love, compassion and mutual understanding taught by religion. The basic cause underlying all the problems that exist in the present day world, is the lack of love and compassion. All the chaos and confusion that prevail in an individual’s life, at the national level and in the world as a whole, exist only because we have failed to practice true religious principles in our day to day lives. Religion should become part and parcel of life. Religion needs to be revived, it needs new life and vitality. Then only will love and compassion dawn within us. Love and compassion, alone, will wipe out the darkness, bringing light and purity to the world.
When love becomes Divine Love, the heart is filled with compassion. Love is an inner feeling and compassion is its expression. Compassion is expressing your heartfelt concern for someone, for a suffering human being.
There is love and Love. You love your family, but you do not love your neighbor. You love your son or daughter, but you do not love all children. You love your father and mother, but you do not love everyone the way you love your father and mother. You love your religion, but you do not love all religions. You may even dislike those of other faiths. Likewise, you have love for your country, but you do not love all countries, and may feel animosity towards different people. Hence, this is not true Love; it is only limited love. The transformation of this limited love into Divine Love is the goal of spirituality. In the fullness of Love blossoms the beautiful, fragrant flower of compassion. When the obstructions of ego, fear and the feeling of otherness disappear, you cannot help but Love. You do not expect any return for your love. You don’t care about receiving anything; you just flow. Whoever comes into the river of Love will be bathed in it, whether the person is healthy or diseased, a man or a woman, wealthy or poor. Anyone can take any number of dips in the river of Love. Whether someone bathes in it or not, the river of Love does not care. If somebody criticizes or abuses the river of Love, it takes no notice. It simply flows. When that Love overflows and is expressed through every word and deed, we call it compassion. That is the goal of religion. A person who is full of Love and compassion has realized the true principles of religion.
A compassionate person does not see the faults of others. He does not see the weaknesses of people. He makes no distinction between people who are good and people who are bad. When someone is full of Love and compassion, he cannot draw a line between two countries, two faiths or two religions. He has no ego. Thus, there is no fear, lust or passion. He simply forgives and forgets. Compassion is like a passage. Everything passes through it. Nothing can stay there, because where there is true Love and compassion there is no attachment. Compassion is Love expressed in all its fullness.
To see and feel life in everything, that is Love. When Love fills the heart, one can see life pulsating in and through the entire creation. “Life is Love”-this is the lesson taught by religion. Life is here. Life is there. Life is everywhere. There is nothing but life. So too, Love is everywhere. Wherever there is life, there is Love, and vice versa. Life and Love are not two, they are one. But ignorance about their oneness will prevail until Realization comes. Until Realization comes, the difference between intellect and heart will continue to exist. Intellect alone is not sufficient. In order to attain Perfection, in order to reach the fullness of life, one needs to have a heart filled with Love and compassion. To know this is the sole aim of religion and of religious practices.
This is the age of intellect and reason, the age of science. We have forgotten the feelings of the heart. A common expression the world over is, “I have fallen in love.” Yes, we have fallen down into a love rooted in selfishness and materialism. We are unable to arise and awaken in love. If fall we must, let it be from the head to the heart. Rising up in Love, that is religion.
Restoring the Balance of Nature
True religion tells us that all of creation is a manifestation of God. If this is so, we must have love and concern for nature as well as for our fellow men. The scriptures say, “Isavasyamidam Sarvam”: that everything is permeated with God-consciousness. The earth, trees, plants and animals are all manifestations of God. We should love them as we love our own Self. Actually, we should love them even more than ourselves, because only with nature’s support can human beings exist. It is said that we should plant two trees for every one we cut down. However, when a large tree is replaced by two small seedlings, the balance of nature is not maintained. If a disinfectant is added to water in a smaller proportion than required, its effect will be minimized. If an ayurvedic medicine which is to be prepared with ten different ingredients is prepared with only eight, the medicine will not have the desired effect. Animals, plants, and trees all contribute to the harmony of nature. It is man’s duty to protect and preserve them, for they are helpless to defend themselves. If we continue to destroy them, it will do the world great harm.
Mother remembers that in Her childhood cow dung would be placed directly upon the site of a vaccination in order to prevent infection. But today, cow dung will make a wound septic. Due to the toxins with which man has polluted the environment, our immune systems have become weakened, and the cow dung has also become harmful. In times past, the life span of an ordinary person was over one hundred years, whereas nowadays, it is considerably less and still decreasing. There are rare cases today where people live for more than one hundred years, but this is usually accompanied by poor health and great suffering. Untreatable diseases have become prevalent due to man’s transgression of the laws of nature.
How much pollution has been caused by the smoke from factories? Mother is not suggesting that we close the factories; She is only saying that part of the profits should be used for devising methods to reduce pollution and to revive and protect the environment. In olden days, rain and sunshine came at the right time and supported the cycle of growth and harvest. There was no need for irrigation because everything was taken care of by nature. Nowadays, we have strayed from the path of dharma (right action). We are not at all concerned about nature, and therefore, nature is reacting. The same cool breeze which once caressed mankind has now turned into a tornado.
We may doubt whether we have the power to restore the lost balance in nature. We may ask, “Are we human beings not too limited?” No, we are not! We have infinite power within us, but we are fast asleep and unaware of our strength. This power rises up when we awaken within. Religion is life’s greatest secret which enables us to awaken this unlimited, but dormant inner power.
The Sanatana Dharma proclaims, “O man, you are not a tiny candle, you need not depend on someone else for your light. You are the self-luminous sun.” As long as you think you are the body, you are like a small battery whose power is easily drained. But when you know yourself to be the ‘Atman’, you are like a giant battery connected to the cosmic power supply, which provides you with continuous and inexhaustible strength. When connected to God, the Self, the Source of all power, your energy never diminishes. You are able to tap into your infinite potential. Be aware of your own immense power and strength. You are not a meek little lamb, you are a majestic, powerful lion. You are the cosmic energy, the all-powerful God.
Children Should Be Taught Through Example
Amma has heard that many young children in the West carry guns when they go to school. She has been told that they may even shoot someone without any reason at all. Have you ever thought about why it is that young children are tempted to act in such cruel ways? It is because they have never been taught proper conduct. They have never been exposed to true love and compassion. Many boys and girls have come to Amma and said: “Our mother has not given us any love. Our parents have not taught us to behave properly. We have seen our mom and dad fighting with each other, right in front of us. As we witness such quarrels and selfishness, we begin to feel hatred towards the whole world. We become disobedient and selfish.” Their parents, from whom they are supposed to learn the first lessons of love and patience, fail to set a proper example. It is Amma’s request that parents should shower love and affection on their children in the early years. The infants should not be left uncared for in their cradles. Their mother’s should hold them close and breast-feed them with love and tenderness. The children should be taught religious and moral principles during their formative years. Parents should not fight or express anger and hatred in front of their children. If they do, how is the child to learn patience and love?
If you walk through a field of soft, green grass, it will automatically make a path. Whereas, it would take countless trips up and down a stony hillside, in order to wear away a trail. In the same way, a child’s character can easily be moulded. Children need loving care, but at the same time we should not forget to discipline them. Faith in God should be instilled in them, as well as love for the entire creation. This is possible only through proper religious education.
Children, our foremost duty and obligation in this world is to help our fellow human beings. God doesn’t need anything from us. He is ever full. To think that God needs anything from us is like holding a lighted candle before the sun in order to light its way. God is the one who protects us; He is not the one who needs to be protected by us. A river has no need for water from a stagnant pond. Rather it is the stagnant pond that needs the river’s water, in order to become clean and pure. Today, our minds have become filled with impurities, like the stagnant pond. We need the Grace of God to purify and uplift us, so that we can selflessly love and serve the world.
To show compassion towards suffering humanity is our obligation to God. Our spiritual quest should begin with selfless service to the world. People will be disappointed if they sit in meditation, expecting a third eye to open after closing the other two. This is not going to happen. We cannot close our eyes to the world in the name of spirituality and expect to evolve. To behold unity while viewing the world through open eyes is Spiritual Realization. When a flower has not yet blossomed, when it is still a bud, its beauty and fragrance are not yet manifest. No one is able to appreciate or enjoy them. But when the flower blossoms, when it unfolds in bewitching color and form, when its fragrance wafts through the air, it arouses joy and happiness all around. In the same way, the flowers of our hearts have not yet blossomed. They are still tiny buds. However, if nurtured by faith in God, by love and compassion, and by adherence to the principles of religion, the buds of our hearts are bound to unfold. Revealing their beauty and spreading their fragrance, they become blessings to the world. Religion is not limited to the words of the scriptures. It is a way of life. Its beauty and charm are expressed in the love and compassion of those who live in accordance with its precepts. Whatever Amma has said until now, is like the script on the label of a medicine bottle. Simply reading the label will not effect a cure. The medicine has to be taken. You cannot taste the sweetness of honey by licking a piece of paper on which the word ‘honey’ has been written. Likewise, the principles described in the religious texts must be contemplated, meditated upon, and finally realized. Let us all take refuge at the feet of the Supreme Lord and pray that we may attain that state of Perfection.