Download Free Books on Yoga, Religion & Philosophy
Online Bookstore
THE DIVINE LIFE SOCIETY HOME TEACHINGS MESSAGES RELIGIONS DISCOURSE SAINTS SWAMI SIVANANDA
FAQ ANNOUNCEMENTS SITE MAP BRANCHES MULTIMEDIA LINKS


View Archives

This article is from the book Yoga Samhita.

Triumph Over Materialism

By

Sri Swami Sivananda

The One Way of Attainment
Why So Many Religions?
The Value of Human Birth
Strive for Your Salvation
The Golden Rule
The Clarion Call
World is Evanescent
Pain is a Blessing
Enough of This Vain Civilisation
Education of the Child
Moulding of Students
Gurukula System—the Right Way

From the tiniest creature to the mightiest gods, the entire creation is pervaded by God. Out of Himself, God has created the universe with countless beings in it. Every creature has its own rightful place in the universe, allotted to it by the Lord. The little ant has as much a right, and a need to live, as the great gods, Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara. All this seeming diversity has been created by God, so that each one of us might through the practice of Truth, Love and Purity, evolve into a consciousness of basic indwelling Unity.

Infinite are the temperaments and infinite are the approaches to the Ultimate Reality. Each one has a place in the Lord’s Creation. The Glory of God lies in the truth that He is the one that underlies all this infinite variety, that He is the Goal that all men owing their allegiance to numberless faiths strive to reach through what apparently look like totally divergent paths.

The One Way of Attainment

A closer examination, however, would instantly reveal that all these apparent differences relate to certain non-essential features of each way of attainment. As fundamentally each man has the same internal physical structure and organism as his brethren throughout the world, though externally no man looks alike or also physically is exactly the same as anyone else in the world, so also there is only one way of Attainment, one-way of reaching the Great Goal though superficially the Path of practically each man appears to differ from that of others. It is most essential that we should clearly grasp this fundamental principle of creation.

From this it would be obvious that all attempts at creating a One World Religion are bound to fail, for religion is but an external appearance of an inward spiritual process. It is as impossible as it is to bring about a race of people who would look exactly like one another, and who would think exactly like one another.

What is right and proper to do, however, is to create in every man and woman, a genuine desire to tread the spiritual path and to realise the goal set before him or her by his or her own religion, or the religion which he or she chooses to follow. Through the various prophets and seers, God has given us ever so many patterns of spiritual life, into one of which each one of us could fit himself.

Why So Many Religions?

Let us then thank the Lord that He has been gracious enough to give us so many religions. Let us analyse our own Samskaras, our own latent tendencies, our own temperaments, and our own mental evolution, and choose our religion. More often than not, we are likely to find that the religion that we are born in is the one best suited to our evolution! For each religion has the same fundamental characteristics as every religion, and allows the true seeker a great latitude within the basic framework, to find his own Path to God. No one need have any misgivings about that. If you are a Hindu, by birth or by choice, be a true Hindu. If you are a Muslim, be a true Muslim. If you are a Christian, be a true Christian. Strive to follow the tenets of your own religion. Fix your attention on the fundamentals and incorporate into your daily life as much of the less essential doctrines—rituals, customary practices, etc. as you need for your own spiritual growth. If you are sincere in your search for Truth, if you are earnest in your aspiration to attain perfection, God Himself will lead you on, will show you your Path to Him, either from within you or by the compelling force of circumstances or through the medium of a Guru. Yield not to cowardice. Be bold. Be adamant in your determination to reach Him. You are sure to succeed.

The Value of Human Birth

Life is short; time is fleeting. The Almighty Lord has graciously given us this human birth so that we might through intelligent striving attain Him. Close your eyes for a moment and think: is not the life-span of even a hundred years but a fleeting moment in Time? And, are we not subjected to ever so many distractions even during these years of our life as human beings on this earth? A large part is consumed away by the terrible death-like nightly coma called sleep. Nearly a fourth of this life-span is spent uselessly in boyhood and adolescence; and manhood is preyed upon by countless anxieties, worries and cares in the earning of the daily bread, in breeding and feeding families, and in a thousand other ways. Old age comes on and puts a cruel end to the play of our passions and desires. Ought we then to weep over wasted days? Should we not, even while there is vigour in our limbs, strive to live a truly spiritual life in right earnest and to attain the goal—the conquest over death—and thus put old age and death to flight? Then, come, gird up your loins and plunge yourself in spiritual practices, in selfless service, Japa, Kirtan and meditation. Realise the Self and be free.

In spirit you are one with the rest of humanity. God, the Ultimate Reality, is your own Self, as He is the Self of all—the Self of every atom of Creation. This Truth is veiled from your sight on account of Fundamental Nescience. This ignorance has assumed as many forms as there are beings in this universe. All these beings are consciously and unconsciously striving to tear this veil of ignorance and realise their Godhead. Everyone is progressing towards that Goal. And everyone is bound to reach It.

Strive for Your Salvation

In this ignorance, however, each Jiva is separate from all the rest. Each Jiva has independently to work its way to the realisation of the Godhead. You may help each other in various degrees. In fact, even this helping each other is a potent Sadhana for developing love for each other. But, remember this point well, no one else can achieve Moksha or the Highest Release, for you. You have to do that yourself.

Once you grasp this truth firmly, it will be apparent to you that your duty is to struggle with yourself, with your mind and with the internal enemies of lust, anger, greed and the host of other evils within, to eradicate them, to purify yourself and to evolve into Godhead, or rather realise your Self. All the religions of the world, therefore, preach that Truth, Love and Purity lead one to God. There is no religion in the world that preaches untruth, hatred and immorality as the path to God. The practice of these fundamental virtues cleanses the heart of the accumulated dross, and burns up the veil of ignorance, thus revealing the True Nature of the Self.

The Golden Rule

To love all is, therefore, the Golden Rule. Universal love is the key to cosmic consciousness or Final Liberation. The secret of cultivating Universal Love is "To see only good in others". To be conscious of the defects only in one’s own self, and to be conscious of only the virtues of others, is to see God in all. God is All Goodnees. He dwells in all. Therefore everyone must be good. But, why do we see evil? Obviously there must be something wrong in our own mental make-up. Let us then introspect, analyse our own mind, eradicate this habit of finding faults in others, and thus acquire equal vision. The moment man’s gaze is thus turned within himself, and he develops equal vision towards all humanity, that very moment peace, harmony and prosperity are born. It is this lower nature in man that prompts him to reform others while he feels quite happy about the evils that he breeds within himself, that has in the history of mankind caused so many wars and dissensions. The mind refuses to think of itself, but is ever eager to think of others. If you analyse its vagaries, you will find that it does so only in order to find others’ faults (or even imagine them) and as a consequence feel supremely happy in the thought "I am superior to others". The wretched ego feeds on such vile thoughts; it grows fatter and fatter and to prove its superiority compels man to challenge others. A fight ensues. Depending on the status of the person in society, the quarrel is between two individuals or two villages, or two nations.

The Clarion Call

If, on the other hand, man learns to see only good in others, to think well of others, if he must think of them; and to concentrate more and more on his own self, to find out the evils that lurk within him, and to try to eradicate them there would be peace everywhere. Every leader of the world today, will become an apostle of Peace.

This is the clarion call of all the religions of the world. No religion concerns itself with a study of the defects of other religions. Every prophet, sage and seer, the founder of every religion, has exhorted the followers of that religion to follow the tenets of that religion and to realise the Goal set before them in that religion.

A Hindu, a Muslim, a Christian, all of them can reside in the same room and yet live in loving comradeship, if only each of them practises the religion he professes, and leaves "the other man" at peace to practise his religion.

Then would there be peace in the world. Whether we want it or not, religion does and will for ever, exert a profound influence on the inner man, consciously or unconsciously. When man’s religious conscience is tinged with love, tolerance and goodwill, then the other parts of his personality, his thoughts, his speech and his actions are all bound to be loving. He will not be greedy; he will not be swayed by lust and anger; he will not be jealous; he will not be arrogant. He will be a man of peace and love. He will strive to become a saint; and he will be saintly.

World is Evanescent

What else is of any avail on this earth? Mighty emperors have been washed away by the flood of time. Great men of science have been reduced to ashes, often by their own inventions. Death, the great leveller, has crushed man’s pride, set his ambitions at naught, and calmed his surging passions. If only man would remember death, he would do no evil action. He would not be selfish. He will not seek power, name and fame. He would want to analyse death itself; for death is more powerful than all his earthly power, ambitions and achievements. He would want to know if he (the great "I") survives death or is killed by it; for it was by this ‘I’ that he laid the greatest store. If the ‘I’ will not survive death, then he will find that his earthly achievements have only been purposeless endeavours. If the ‘I’ will survive death, then, too, he will want to know what becomes of it afterwards.

Remember death. Then, you will at once realise that you came alone and you will go alone. Alone! This short span of human life on this earth has been granted to you in order that you might strive to realise your true Self, to realise that the little separate individual ‘I’ is false, that you are really not separate from others, but that you are in truth the very Self of all.

Pain is a Blessing

God has been merciful. Lest you should forget the purpose of your life here: lest you should take this phenomenal world as the ultimate reality; lest you should waste your time here in fruitless tasks. He has granted you a great blessing in disguise—pain, suffering, misery. Pain is a blessing. It reminds you again and again that pain is the nature of the world. Pain brings home to you the truth that pleasure is not in objects. Pain sets you a-thinking. How can I get an unalloyed pleasure? When you get knocks and blows in the daily battle of life, then your mind is duly turned towards God! You yourself experience pain; you see others suffering; you see before your own eyes death carrying away mighty men, separating man from wife, father from son, reminding you ‘Your turn will come! Now, wake up and strive. None of these people on whom you shower your affections can help you when I summon you.’ Pain teaches you that you and you alone will have to suffer the penalties for your wrong doings; that when pain afflicts you, you have to groan and no one else can do this for you!

Why then do you cling like leech to the objects of this world, to wife and children, to bungalows and motor-cars? You have seen again and again that they are incapable of giving you real, lasting pleasure. Then, give up your Moha for them. Throw away your University degree. Cut this bondage to wife, children and family. Meditate on the Supreme Lord. Sing His Name; do Japa. Study Gita. Remember the saints and sages of all times. They, too, renounced the world; they abandoned everything; they found God. They enjoyed supreme bliss. They conquered death by knowing its real nature. They realised the essential immortal nature of the Self, and the ephemeral nature of all names and forms. Not only are their names remembered even now, not only are they worshipped even now, but they themselves had cut asunder the bonds that tie the Jiva to the wheel of birth and death and liberated themselves.

Enough of This Vain Civilisation

That Liberation is worth achieving. That independence is worth our aspiration. People clamour for political independence, wars ensue. Man wants liberation from his wife; woman wants to be independent—divorce ensues. One section of the population wants to achieve independence from the tyranny of a ruler; he is shot dead. One class struggles for liberation from the oppression of another class of people: riots are the outcome. All these we have learnt from the happenings in the West. You have all seen enacted before your very eyes, the great drama of materialism? What have you learnt from the events of the past half a century? Have you understood yet that materialism cannot bring you peace? Have you understood that true liberation is not mere liberation from this form of government or that, from this ruler or that, but it is in liberating yourself from your own lower nature that rules you from within yourself? Every true Indian aspires for this independence. He takes no more interest in the affairs of the world than that is needed to keep fleshy vehicle of his soul. The West has, therefore, called him "other worldly" and "uncivilised". Now we have seen to what depths of savagery the this worldly philosophy of the West, and its boasted civilisation has led humanity. From land-warfare came sea-warfare and air-warfare with greater loss of life. From atomic bomb has come the H-bomb! Everywhere there is tall talk about the rights of Man; but these bombs send countless innocent men, women and children to the grave. To an Indian such warfare is alien. Study the Mahabharata and know for yourself how righteous the warriors were even when fighting became inevitable, and how each MAN was respected. Enough, enough then of this materialism and the blood-stained civilisation of the modernised world.

Men and women educated from their very childhood in the arts of war, trained in destructive sciences, and taught to worship their body as the supreme truth of life—they cannot produce a civilisation of peace, plenty and prosperity. Men and women who have been taught from early childhood that "Religion is the opiate of the masses" cannot but feel proud of their diabolical achievements. The ills of the world today can be cured only by a thorough overhauling of the system of education, and by a reorientation in the outlook of man upon life.

Education of the Child

It must start from the cradle. Man’s first teacher is his mother. What he is during his manhood is largely dependent upon what his mother made of him in the cradle. Take care of the mother and you have taken care of the nation. Education must start right there, in the very heart of the household. Teach the Indian mother, wise mother-craft. Teach her the spiritual way of bringing up her children—the way of Madalasa, who made saints of her sons! At the impressionable age when the mother and she alone can have direct access to the child’s heart, she must instil there healthy, sublime, spiritual ideas. She must tell him tales of saints, of God and His Avataras. She must tell him stories of men of virtue, like Bhishma, Harischandra, etc.

Of even greater importance to the child, is the way of his parents’ life. How few men and women realise this! The child who is new to the world is keenly watching the parents. He sets his standard by them. His Shastra is their daily conduct. If they are unrighteous or vicious, then whatever be the lessons that he may academically learn elsewhere, he is sure to be vicious himself. If they are virtuous, noble and spiritual, then external evil influences will have very little effect upon him.

Moulding of Students

Then comes the school-master. In the present-day lop-sided system of education, the teacher takes very little interest in the taught. The teacher is interested in his salary; the student is interested in getting through the examination. Both are satisfied if even the minimum percentage of marks is obtained to get "Pass". The examinations reveal what the student does not know of the academical subjects taught in the class. No attention whatsoever is paid to the ethical disciplining of the pupil, to the awakening of his moral conscience. Nowadays men and women are always able to look back upon their school-days as the days of the greatest libertinism. I would be content if the schools impart no education at all (in the sense in which education is meant these days), if not one book is read in the schools and colleges, if only our schools and colleges produce boys and girls in whom the moral conscience is fully awakened, who have been taught to be righteous, noble and good young men and women. The civilisation that would be produced by these young men and women when they grow older will naturally be an infinitely better one than the one that modern education has blessed us with.

If you must ask the student to read books, then let these books be books on morality and spirituality. It is the irony of the present system of education that ninety-per cent of the knowledge that the student gains at the school or college, he has to forget in after-life—it is of no use to him! Would it not be possible to give him something in the school, which will be of permanent utility to him; would it not be possible to impart such a knowledge into our young men and women as would live in them so long as they live, and would grow in them as their minds grow maturer? What can such knowledge be? It can only be knowledge about that which always lives, about the Eternal Atman, the Eternal Laws of Morality, the Eternal Laws of Health, the Eternal Laws of Righteousness (Dharma). This knowledge will help the young men and women to turn their gaze within themselves and try to reform themselves. They would not quarrel with others in an effort to reform others; but would fight with their own evils in order to achieve self-conquest! They would not be self-indulgent, they would be self-controlled. They would know that the nature of the Soul is Peace; and therefore they would keep peace within themselves and would establish peace on earth. They would know that nature of the Atman is Bliss; and therefore they would spread happiness everywhere through selfless love, selfless service. They would know that nature of the Atman is Truth; would be truthful in their thoughts, words and deeds, and they would meditate on the Truth to realise It in their lives. They would know that the Atman is ever-pure; and, therefore, they would ever be pure in thought, word and deed. They would know that the nature of Samsara is pain; that true Bliss can be had in the Atman only; and they would, therefore, strive their best to realise the Atman by diligent practice of religion, by the practice of the fundamental virtues like Ahimsa, Satyam and Brahmacharya, by the cultivation of cosmic love and service. Such men and women alone can create a civilisation that we can be proud of!

Gurukula System—the Right Way

The student learns more outside the four walls of his school or college than within it!, This all-important factor is completely ignored by our modern educationists. Our ancients were alive to this factor. Therefore, they evolved the Gurukula system of education in which the preceptor had an eye on the entire day’s routine of his pupil. Nowadays, even if we were to introduce moral instruction in the school, as soon as the student leaves the school building, he is assailed on all sides by vulgar music, vulgar pictures, vulgar books and vulgar sights everywhere. A clean sweep of these must be made if we are to have morally healthy society. There is no other way. All erotic literature must be banned; all exciting music forbidden; all obscene (even in the least degree) pictures prohibited. These must quickly be replaced by good books, good pictures, good music. When, thus, the youth is made to live and move about entirely in a righteous atmosphere, then surely the moral conscience will be fully awakened in them; and there will be a revival of the golden age.

Of equal importance is the recreation facilities we offer to the students. Recreation should not mean mere play! Recreation has got a much more sublime significance. Recreation should be such as to recreate something that lies dormant in man. Study of sacred texts, healthy discussion on spiritual and moral topics, meditation. Japa, Kirtan, and practice of Yoga Asans, Pranayama and Suryanamaskara these would be ideal recreation; for they would create in the youth a keen appetite to know more about God. Play is necessary, no doubt; and even play ought to be so designed as to promote goodwill and a spirit of selflessness.

The entire burden falls on the shoulders of our educators. Of all national activities, therefore, it is this education that needs the most careful planning and handling. Education makes the man who makes civilisation. Spiritual education ennobles man. Man is the unit of society, Society is made up of individuals only! Spiritual education will, therefore, bring about spiritually enlightened society. Materialistic education, on the other hand, will bring about demoralised society. A spiritually-enlightened society alone can preserve peace, promote amity, foster brotherhood and work for the commonweal.

May there be peace everywhere! May our leaders give the right lead to the nation! May all become spiritually enlightened!

A pamphlet published by the Divine Life Society, Patna, (Sri A.K. Sinha, Retired Inspector General of Police), in connection with Sri Swami Sivananda’s visit to Patna, in September, 1950.


Last Updated: Monday, 29-May-2017 05:28:51 EDT
Mail Questions, Comments & Suggestions to :