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One Who Possess True Devotion Is A Truly Religious Man

A wholehearted devotion is one of the essential conditions of religion. A man may not have the knowledge of the shastras, may not belong to a high caste, may not observe any ceremonials or social customs, but if he possesses true bhakti, he is a truly religious man. If he has an intense longing to see and realize God, he has advanced a great way towards spirituality. Half-hearted devotion does not amount to anything. To learn a science one has to devote one’s whole heart to it; what a tremendous devotion is wanted in religion, which is the science of all sciences! The realization of the highest is far off until one can cry with Buddha, ‘Let my body be reduced to a skeleton in this posture; let my skin, bones and flesh be dissolved. Without attaining the knowledge which is difficult to attain even in many years, my body shall not move from this posture.’

A disciple once asked Sri Ramakrishna, ‘Master, why is it that I don’t realize God?’ In reply he said, ‘My son, do you feel at least so much attraction for Bhagavan as you have for your children?’ The question is, do we really have devotion? We like to possess a thing without taking the trouble to earn it. When an aspirant is drawn to God with the attraction that a miser has for his gold, or a devoted wife for her husband, or a worldly-minded man for sense objects, his realization is near at hand. Such madness of love changes the whole nature of the devotee. His mere presence induces spirituality in others.

We often talk about religion and give too much importance to shastric learning, but never lay stress on realization.

Concentration of mind is a great factor in religion. Can we withdraw our whole mind from other things and concentrate it on our ideal? Do we forget our body consciousness at the time of concentration? Until we acquire such concentration, religion is mere talk. A religious man must be unselfish. ‘For the freedom of self and for the good of the world’ is the life of a religious man. He should efface his self by serving others. His helping hand ought to be stretched towards all. His presence should be a blessing to all. In short, his life should be merged in the lives of all.

Popularly it is supposed that fasting on particular days, bath in particular rivers or performance of certain rituals, can secure mukti. Unfortunately, the religious energy of the masses, worthy of a greater cause, is wasted in this way. Whoever has found a man attain freedom by following these outward observances? Some go to the length of saying that religion will be gone if these rituals and ceremonies are not observed. To them we say that instead of suffering, religion would be better and stronger if these were clipped and pruned hard back. These are only the non-essentials and their rank growth has jeopardized the life of the essentials, such as the purification of the heart, bhakti and jnana.

Customs and acharas are different in different countries and vary with time and change of circumstances, but the essentials of religion are eternal and unchangeable. So instead of cultivating these deshacharas and rituals which fill the country with hatred, ill-feeling and sectarian fight, the great essentials of religion should be held aloft, which are not the exclusive possession of any one religion but the common property of all, which bring real peace to man and give him strength to remain firm in his faith in adversity as well as in prosperity.

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