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Truth And Purity Of Thought Basis Of Religion

Religion has its essentials and non-essentials. In non-essentials one religion differs from another, but the essentials are found to be the same in all. The votaries of different religions might have to worship in different temples, churches or mosques, in different postures and facing different directions, to bathe in different rivers, to go to different pilgrimages and to observe different rituals and ceremonies, but truth, purity, discrimination, dispassion, renunciation, love of God, concentration of mind, unselfishness and so on are common in all, though called by different names.

Men fight over creeds, doctrines, forms and ceremonies, which are but secondary details. Few care to find out the common bases of religions, which are the primary things. Many sectarian quarrels would have ceased, much bloodshed would have been averted, many lives would have been spared, had men cared to open their eyes to see the fundamental truths in all religions.

Truth and purity in thought, speech and act are regarded by all as the first steps in religion. Misrepresentation and exaggeration are standard human proclivities most injurious to the forming of a truthful mind. Many are found to rigidly observe caste rules, rituals and so on but they lack awfully in truth. So the importance of truth is recognized by the prophets of all religions. If we indulge in falsehood, how can we hope to realize the true nature of Self and of God, who is the embodiment of truth?

Purity is one of the primary conditions of spiritual realization. A true reflection is not possible if a mirror be covered with dirt. The light of God can never penetrate our hearts unless they become pure. ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’ is a precept we find in all religions.

A truly religious man has discrimination and dispassion as his vade mecum. They are the sure guides in the thorny path of life. There are many intricacies and pitfalls in religion where aspirants may lose themselves and wreck their lives without the light of discrimination. Dispassion cannot be too much laid stress upon. Without it the realization of the highest is a dream. Unless one sees through the impermanency and illusiveness of the sense objects how can one cut off all attachment to them?

If sense objects with their vain charms do not cease to affect one’s mind, how is it possible for one to withdraw the whole mind from them and direct it towards the ideal? It is therefore that the great Shankaracharya has so emphatically laid down that one gains the right to ask about Brahman only after performing the four sadhanas, the first two of which are discrimination between the real and the unreal, and dispassion for the objects here and hereafter.

We come across in all religions the examples of great spiritual giants, who, rising above the ordinary cares and pleasures of the world, boldly give up all wealth and position and tear themselves off from the tenderest ties, for the realization of God, the highest ideal in life. We read with wonder about the Prince of Kapilavastu renouncing all to seek the truth. The voice of the great prophet of Nazareth telling his disciple ‘Go and sell that thou hast; … come and follow me’ comes to us through the centuries as potent as ever. Is there not a galaxy of Hindu saints who renounced everything for Self-realization? We find great men in all religions who made the realization of the highest the be-all and end-all of life. True religion does not begin until one is ready to discard all for God. Therefore has every religion held aloft the ideal of renunciation as the commencement of spirituality.

Source - December 1904 Prabuddha Bharata magazine article titled 'Essentials of Religion' by Swami Prakashananda