The exploration of consciousness is an ancient and unique specialization of Hindu spirituality which sees consciousness as the very ground and being of the entire universe. Consciousness is the key word for the Hindu mind and meditation is the main methodology to develop it. There is a new interest in spirituality today, evidenced by the popularity of Yoga and meditation worldwide but it appears as yet to be immature or naive. While one can find meditation camps, techniques and training methods, these seldom turn out people of deep insight. The reason is that true intelligence is always something that cannot be planned, orchestrated or mass- produced.
On the other hand, many spiritual people, particularly of a devotional nature, are notably lacking in intellectual sophistication and sometimes miss out in common sense. They can be duped by claims of sainthood or spiritual realization, which are easy to make and difficult to verify. They are prone to uncritically accept anything that calls itself religion or mysticism. Without some positive development of the intellect, spiritual growth appears limited or one-sided, or at least mute. It easily gets lost, deceived or confused.
We need a new order of spiritual thinkers - spiritual intellectuals if you will - who have the sophistication of thought but coming from a place of consciousness within, and who speak directly, not relying on the intellectual establishment. In this context the works of Ram Swarup are notably refreshing and revitalizing to the spirit. He is a good model of the type of higher thinker that we need in the world today. He demonstrates a remarkable combination of sharp intellectual clarity with deep spiritual insight and sensitivity. Ram Swarup presents us with a living example of a yogic thinker. His capacity for Vichara is wide and many- sided, embracing religion, philosophy and spirituality, often reminiscent of Sri Aurobindo, whom he admired. He shows the awakened Hindu mind in the global context, aware of the past and envisioning the future. It is not the India of British rule that he reflects but a new and perennial India as the teacher or guru of nations.
Like his other works it covers a vast range of ideas. Ram Swarup's meditations begin characteristically with the Yoga system of Patanjali. He discusses Buddhist Yoga and mentions Buddhist practices relative to Patanjala Yoga. He speaks almost as if a master of Buddhism as well as Hindu Yoga approaches.
Ram Swarup in writings has perhaps pioneered the new Hindu critique of other religions, particularly versus Christianity and Islam which still seek to convert Hindu India to their more own uniform creeds. He has removed the superficial attitude - all religions are good - and applied the Hindu mind, the awakened buddhi to this difficult task. After all, religion has not only ennobled people; it has also been the main cause of genocide. It has not only produced profound thoughts and insights, but also burned libraries, banned books and prevented its doctrines from being questioned. What kind of mental and psychic formation is behind religion that can harm us if we are not aware of its compulsions?
Ram Swarup's discussion of the Gods is quite revolutionary in many ways. The danger of various Gods and Goddesses is a common subject in missionary theology that portrays the One God of monotheism as the only truth. Yet monotheism, with its intolerance and aggression, reflects the very lower emotional interests of human beings that its votaries like to descry in other Gods and Goddesses. Ram Swarup shows the danger of monotheism, not only for its social domination and authoritarianism that restricts individual freedom but also for its warping of the human psyche and turning religion into a force of aggression, if not vengeance.
In this examination of religion, Ram Swarup functions like a master psychologist, aware not just of ordinary human limitations but also of the psychic and occult ramifications of our religious urges. Modern psychology is ignorant of the psychic power of religious beliefs and practices. Ram Swarup shows the psychic danger of misapplied religion and also the means to purify ourselves from their distortions.
During his life, Ram Swarup openly and sincerely dialogued with liberal Christians and with Sufis, which communications are reflected in the present volume. While originally hoping that liberal Christianity and Sufism might offer an alternative to the prejudices of the orthodox, he eventually realized that they were just whitewashing religious intolerance with a thin coating of 'mysticism'.
In all these discussions Ram Swarup is not offering any final word or last judgement. He is encouraging us to really examine the topics mentioned and find the truth for ourselves. Most importantly, his book stimulates a genuine Vichara or inquiry in its readers, taking them into a state of meditation that is not fanciful or abstract but clear and adaptable. It represents a revival of the Hindu mind and its gentle but firm analysis of life, through a discerning attention. Hopefully, other thinkers will continue his line of inquiry and take Ram Swarup's dynamic thoughts to the world at large. His legacy is bound to be large for the new world and new India that are about to emerge.
The exploration of consciousness is an ancient and unique specialization of Hindu spirituality which sees consciousness as the very ground and being of the entire universe. This exploration continues to be honored and practiced on a wide scale in India today, not only by organized ashrams but, often more importantly, by individual thinkers working independently in the pursuit of truth. Consciousness is the key word for the Hindu mind and meditation is the main methodology to develop it.
This pursuit of consciousness is not a religious belief or a mystical fantasy. It is a rigorous discipline approached with careful thought, reason and intention, rooted in a certain character and ethics. It requires a singular dedication of heart and mind that arises through a specific culture and way of life. It begins with deep thinking rooted in the prime questions of life, not merely with religious zeal or intellectual speculation.
In the world today we are desperately in need of such deep thinking of a spiritual nature that helps us understand the fundamental truth of our existence. As it stands we are caught in political slogans, religious dogma and scientific information that do not afford real depth and meaning to our lives. Their resultant stereotypes may comfort or stimulate us but prevent us from any real understanding of who we are and where our civilization should go. We seem to lack the real thinkers to guide us forward or, if they do exist, we have not afforded them any real recognition.
There is a new interest in spirituality today, evidenced by the popularity of Yoga and meditation worldwide but it appears as yet to be immature or naive. People are content with adulation of personalities or general instruction that do not bring about real transformation but only perpetuate the same basic compulsions and ambitions. Only through deep thinking, not through merely sitting silently or repeating some phrase, can we enter into a truly meditative mind. While one can find meditation camps, techniques and training methods, these seldom turn out people of deep insight. The reason is that true intelligence is always something that cannot be planned, orchestrated or mass-produced. It arises on an individual basis according to its own rules that cannot be put in any formula. It arises to fulfill a Divine need in the world and dawns like the lightning bolt that cannot be predetermined.
The first principle of any deep thinking is that we must first examine and know ourselves, including the compulsions that drive us from the subconscious and from the external world. Only if we question the ego and ego-based culture from an introspective mind can a really enlightened intelligence come forth. This will produce a different type of thinker that we could call an intellectual in the real sense of the word, a seer who guides and develops culture as a vehicle for a higher consciousness that is not simply human but cosmic. This type of thinker, what the Vedas call a Rishi, has always been honored in India and has been given the main place in shaping its culture. The civilization of the country owes its impetus and sustenance to such minds and their insights.
The Limitations of the Intellect
Intellectuals are seldom truly aware or enlightened beings, though they usually regard themselves as such. While they speak in broad terms of liberalism, humanism and equality they lack a deeper vision of Self and Universe and have no real knowledge of the Eternal and the Infinite. They confuse agility or broadness of thought with a real intelligence and awareness that is beyond the mind. They mistake social, scientific or technological advancement with the real progress of the soul that is not quantifiable.
This is true not only of the intellectuals of the West - which has long been enamoured of logical materialism - but also those of the East, like the Marxist intellectuals of India. They blindly follow any leftist cause, seeing the advancement of their ideology as the greatest goal of life, oblivious to any higher truth beyond the rational mind and its historical view. Almost like devotees, they enthusiastically and uncritically imitate their Western counterparts, and produce little original of their own. They are happy to denigrate their own spiritual traditions, which are worn by time and neglect and in need of revision, and rudely reject them altogether. They are blindly destroying their own greater heritage for the current intellectual fads of the West that are unlikely to last.
The reason for this condition is that the intellect in itself is not an enlightened intelligence. It is a projection of ego, instinct and emotion into the realm of thought-at best sublimation, at worst an imposition. The intellectual rationalizes his beliefs, opinions and feelings, whether political, artistic or religious, upholding individual and collective prejudices, which are many and diverse. He may try to stand above some of these prejudices but inevitably bows down before others or invents new ones of his own that can be yet more dangerous as they are not rooted in life.
The intellect, as a manifestation of the ego, is certain and proud of its opinions and judgements. It likes to look askance at spiritual teachings and realities beyond its own realm of experience and expertise. The intellectual likes to set his personal ego as the authority and does not honor tradition, particularly of a spiritual nature. After a casual reading or by highlighting a few offensive passages, he can happily dissect the Gita, Mahabharata or Vedas and find them to be wanting from the inviolable standard of his rationalistic and humanistic views. He can glibly show how the ancient sages have failed the litmus test of the current political correctness. He feels that he is removing illusions and superstitions while trampling over the legacy of previous civilizations and presenting little meaningful or lasting in return. Such intellectuals do not take us into deep contemplation of transcendent verities but encourage us to some social protest or leave us in some agnostic limbo, with nothing enduring to guide us.
The Need of the Intellect on the Spiritual Path
On the other hand, many spiritual people, particularly of a devotional nature, are notably lacking in intellectual sophistication and sometimes miss out in common sense. While they are open to an inner reality they can naively believe any superstition of prophets, avatars, miracles and magic. They can be duped by claims of sainthood or spiritual realization, which are easy to make and difficult to verify. They are prone to uncritically accept anything that calls itself religion or mysticism, particularly once they have chosen a particular path. While they honor gurus it is more as savior figures than as teachers. While they praise traditions they seldom really study or practice them. They often turn the guru into god and themselves into his emissaries and fail to really look at themselves.
Such non-thinking devotees frequently don't know how to reason and, however profound their aspirations may be, are often incapable of articulating them in a cogent manner to a neutral audience. While this may not be a problem for them personally or for other devotees, as they may have an inner connection to the Divine, it does limit their ability to influence society or to help others. Without some positive development of the intellect, spiritual growth appears limited or one-sided, or at least mute. It easily gets lost, deceived or confused. Such uncritical spirituality gets mired in prejudice and confuses emotional highs with spiritual bliss.
Compared to the articulate intellectual such non-thinking spiritual types appear gullible, emotional and biased. On the other hand, from the standpoint of the spiritual devotee the materialist intellectual appears dry, arrogant and destructive. Both are lacking in introspection. Both have need of each other. The intellect needs a spiritual sensitivity to soften its critical edge and to turn it within. A spiritual sensitivity needs a critical mind to purify it and to take us from emotion to peace and silence.
The true thinkers of India have neither been dry intellectuals or irrational devotees. They have balanced mind and heart, reason and feeling in a higher awareness that is one with life. This is the real foundation of the spiritual path, not as a credal cult but as an individual practice that can lead one to the universal as a living communion with existence.
The Need for a New Class of Thinkers
In spite of or perhaps because of the great development of information in the world today - the internet, the media and the universities - we live in an anti- intellectual or anti-thinking society. We can find quick answers automatically at the push of a button and so do very little inner searching to find the truth ourselves. There is little introspection in our world either individually or culturally. We fail to critically analyze our culture or ourselves and don't know how to look within. If we do go in for meditation it is for stress relief, blindly applying a technique or simply trying to blank the mind. Few have the energy or the motivation for real thinking that breaks through the boundaries of the ignorance in which we live.
The creative thinker taking us forward in consciousness has been replaced with the intellectual as a well paid or highly trained apologist for various vested interests in the political, commercial or religious realms. Today thought is in service of corporations, institutions, churches or political parties. The current intellectual is like a public relations firm or advertising agency, and naturally upholds the views of those who support him. He is more like a lawyer defending a client presumed innocent than an objective observer looking for the truth.
The intellectual represents the cultural elite of the society. He or she shapes its dominant views and opinions through the media, books, the internet and the universities. The power of the intellectual to influence and mold the minds of youth is also significant as the teacher and tutor. This makes the unenlightened intellectual a dangerous influence on society. Instead of guiding us to dharma he encourages the rejection of any lasting values. To counter this, a new type of intellectual or a new class of thinkers is required that understands the great spiritual traditions but in a living way and can articulate them in clearly intelligible forms that awakens people today to the higher truth.
There is a role for a real thinker, or what we could call a true intellectual, in every society. Such an enlightened thinker does not work out of thought and the ego. He is not the product of an academic institution, nor can he be recognized by a degree or by publications in prestigious journals. He introduces new ideas and insights into the world, while at the same time carrying on the venerable traditions of the great sages who have guided humanity from the beginning of time.
A true thinker is one who follows the yogic way of Vichara, what we could call "spiritually discriminating thinking", which develops out of a meditative mind. This Vichara or deep thought follows a yogic methodology. To achieve it one must have control of the body, control of the prana, control of the senses, and above all, concentration with a one-pointed mind. Such a mind can take up any problem, meditate upon it, understand it deeply and present a new comprehension of it. Such a thinker asks fundamental questions and the answers gradually unfold themselves from within by the power of the meditative mind.
The ordinary intellectual has no such control of the body, prana, senses and mind. His thoughts are scattered and diffused, reflecting external influences and training, not internal insight. The result is that the ordinary intellectual is not a true or original thinker but the product of the times and its compulsions, often little more than a journalist or a reporter.
Curiously, particularly in the West, the ordinary intellectual shapes how we view spiritual traditions. Many people who study Eastern teachings like Yoga, Vedanta or Buddhism will read academic books on the subject, particularly as to their history, and believe that they are getting information that is authoritative and objective. It is amazing how little people question the academic establishment or the media in such matters that are outside their field of expertise or sensitivity. Sometimes spiritual people or spiritual traditions choose special individuals to train in academia, to infiltrate it in order to shape its views. While this has some effect, it has yet to make a real difference. Instead we need a new order of spiritual thinkers - spiritual intellectuals if you will - who have the sophistication of thought but coming from a place of consciousness within, and who speak directly, not relying on the intellectual establishment.
Those capable of such real Vichara are not fooled by intellectual theatrics. They will not bow down to the intellectual tradition of the West that has failed to even create a concept the Atman (higher Self). Nor are they satisfied with an inarticulate mysticism or blind devotion. They have a critical edge to their thought that reflects deeper perception. Yet their thoughts have both a humor and a compassion that understands our human limitations and helps us to see beyond them.
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