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Know Oneself To Overcome Sufferings

Millions of thinking men all over the world today are searching for a spiritual ideal round which to reintegrate their personalities. The future of the world depends on the human race’s understanding of the true nature of man and his potentialities. There have been many in our country who with a thorough understanding of the true nature of the ‘ego’ succeeded in transcending it and lived in higher spiritual consciousness. The essential unity of the universe is the main discovery of the Eastern spiritual masters. That is the chief discovery of the modern physicists too. ‘The quantum theory forces us to see the universe not as a collection of physical objects, but rather as a complicated web of relations between the various parts of a unified whole,’ says Fritjof Capra. This unity is expressed both at the microcosmic level and at the macrocosmic level.

Be that as it may, ‘the aim of civilization is progress, not of science and machinery, but of mankind’, as Alexis Carrel said. Einstein voiced the same opinion in other words: ‘Objective knowledge provides us with powerful instruments for the achievement of certain ends in life. But the ultimate goal of life and the longing to reach it must come from another source.’ Modern philosophers are only echoing what the Greek thinkers and the seers of the Upanishads declared thousands of years ago about the aim of human life — ‘Know thy self!’ But how is this to be done? ‘Give me a place to stand and I will move the Earth’, said Archimedes. What he meant was, if he had a firm place to stand, a lever and a fulcrum, he could lift the earth off the orbit. Just so, we cannot hope to solve the problems relating to the ever-changing ego even while we are standing on it! We need to recognize our spiritual self and take our stand on it in order to solve our problems. ‘Men do not know themselves and therefore do not understand the things of the inner world. Each man has the essence of God and all the wisdom and power of the world (germinally) in himself. He possess one kind of knowledge as much as another and … [if he] does not find that which is in him, [he] cannot truly say that he does not possess it but only that he was not capable of successfully seeking it’, observed Paracelsus.

One thing is certain, that to decide the meaning of life and existence and to understand the significance and objective of human life, it is not enough to know the external universe. It can only be understood by getting to know closely what exists in the depths of the human mind, by understanding the way in which it functions, by grasping the law of its operation and by perceiving its ultimate nature.

The wonderful developments of science during the past three hundred years mainly concern the external world. The study of the nature and potentialities of the human mind is of more recent origin; it has a history of about a hundred years. It is true that with the help of their fine instruments the scientists have understood innumerable minute details of the exterior world. But many of them are realizing, though belatedly, that the nature of the mind, its innate tendency to constantly flow out ward, prevents man from getting an insight into the deeper, hidden aspects of the cosmos. That, however, can be achieved only by the practice of meditation.

Science has raised man’s power of investigation to an all-time high. Man now seems to be at the peak of his intellectual abilities. Is it not within his power to create a beautiful world full of honesty, justice, brotherhood, understanding, cooperation, peace and tolerance? Why has he not succeeded in that? Man can now make the five elements dance to his tune; he is comfortable alike on land, in water or in space; he can now wipe out terrible epidemics that used to threaten the human race. Can he not fill his heart with a sense of brotherhood and friendship? Can he not quench the fire of hatred with the ambrosia of love?

Even religious leaders are nowadays concerned only with strengthening their own organizations, instead of bringing about a spiritual renaissance. True religion performs two functions. First, it trains the restless mind and directs its energies towards a noble ideal. Second, it teaches the mind to live with other people harmoniously. Man is not just a combination of material substances. He is the Self, the Atman. This faith that we are Atman will make us masters of our selves. Control over the body and the senses results in purification of the heart, and that leads to Self-realization. It destroys all sorrows, bestows on one eternal bliss and brings real fulfillment. It is in working towards this end that we can bring genuine harmony within ourselves and in society.

SourceExcerpt from article titled ‘The Need for Spiritually Enlightened Citizens’ by Swami Jagadatmananda in Prabuddha Bharata Magazine January 2006 issue.