The Need for Spiritual Regeneration

From the teachings of Swami Sivananda Saraswati

All materialistic ways of thinking and living should be abandoned. A simple, spiritual sense of the values of life should be carefully inculcated in all countries and in all societies. There should be an immediate return to the motto of 'plain living and high thinking', which was so successfully followed by our ancient forefathers. They understood well that the practice of renunciation is the sine qua non for the thorough eradication of greed and fear, which lie at the root of all troubles in the world.

As a supplement to this, the spirit of selfless service should be infused into every man from his childhood days. This is the point where religion meets ethics and sociology; for the first posits, the one Self alone pervades all existence. Hence every piece of service done for others amounts to a benefit conferred on ourselves. The more this sublime basis of human actions is recognized and adopted, the more rapid will be man's evolution towards perfection and divinization.

Need for education

The emphasis in human relations should be shifted from rights to duties. Communalism, racism, nationalism – all 'isms' are only the different hoods of the same hydra-headed monster of selfishness, and insistence upon rights and disregard of duties and should therefore give place to one all-embracing universalism. National borders should gradually lose their artificial significance and importance. One by one, all differences of religion and language, social and moral codes, cultural and political institutions should vanish and be replaced by the greatest common measure of uniformity of outlook, interests and conduct.

Great masses of mankind have to be weaned from the unfortunate hedonistic tendencies of thinking, feeling and acting with the grossness and greed of the mere beast. This is not an impossible proposition, for the Divine exists in all beings, and it is an integral part of every individual consciousness. The method to draw it out is right and true education. This task of gradually, yet surely regenerating the nature of the masses has to be seriously undertaken in all earnestness and worked out in the educational and the domestic spheres, in particular, and the wider social sphere, in general, if the hope of creating a new generation and bringing into existence a new humanity who will elect and manage the future government of nations in the best interests of all, is to be fulfilled.

A farmer for a better future

I know this is a difficult task; but no great thing is ever done as if by magic. All constructivity implies hard work, and more so for a creative and constructive task of a worldwide nature. The results may not be immediate. To a large extent the fruit of such work will be for posterity, while the tempo and the sincerity of the movement will set the elders thinking and gradually transform them as well.

A farmer who wishes to reap a rich harvest of healthy and luxuriant crop does not so much attempt to change and improve the existing crop that is already standing in the field, though he exerts to safeguard them from rot and pestilence, but rather he starts to treat the soil in which the seeds of the next harvest are lying and germinating in silence. In the same way, those who are to work for future peace and universal well being should first of all strive to create a right and ideal condition that will enable the future generation to fulfil the hopes and ideals that we cherish today.

If the world is to have peace, there has to be less hypocrisy, less prejudice and fear complex, less slavery to outdated traditions and exclusive material values. Above all, the ideal of righteousness, to live and to let live, and to consider the other man's rights, necessities and self-respect as much as our own should have to be realized first.

The greatness of good conduct

That act of exertion which does not do good to others, or that act for which one has to feel shame, should never be done. That act on the other hand, should be done, for which one may be lauded in society. This is a brief description of what right conduct is. To speak the truth, to practise ahimsa, not to hurt the feelings of others in thought, word and deed; not to speak harsh words to anyone; not to show any anger towards anybody, not to abuse others or speak ill of others and to see God in all beings is divine life.

It is by conduct that one acquires a long life, and it is by conduct that one acquires riches and prosperity. It is a means to attain the goal of life. Without good conduct no one can achieve the goal. Good conduct brings in fame, longevity, wealth and happiness. It eventually leads to moksha. It is conduct that begets virtue, and it is virtue that prolongs life. Conduct gives fame, long life and heaven. Conduct is the most efficacious rite of propitiating the celestials. One should show mercy to all orders of man. Virtue is singled out by conduct.

The good and virtuous are so on account of the conduct they follow. The marks of good conduct are afforded by the deeds of those that are good or righteous. Indeed, it is by conduct that one acquires fame that depends upon great deeds both in this world and the next. One may by conduct alone conquer the three worlds. There is nothing which the virtuous person cannot obtain. A person of good deeds, of pleasant and sweet speech has no peer. People respect that man who acts righteously and who does good acts, even if they only hear of him without actually seeing him.

The dharma of love

"Do as you would be done by. Do unto others as you wish others do unto you." This is the whole of dharma. Attended to this carefully, you will be saved from all troubles; practise this in your daily life.

One should cultivate unlimited love. All patriotism, love of one's nation, race and religion should never be allowed to be factors to encourage disunity, discord, hostility and a superiority complex. The love of your country and personal freedom should all the more emphasize how sacred is the other man's love for his country and his personal freedom.

True religion is love. True religion unites all in fellowship. Sages call upon man to see good in all, but our endeavour should be to see God in all, for only then will we be able to see the good in all. Let man be taught truth, purity, love, contentment and selflessness. Let there be a living faith in God in the hearts of men, for it is the essence of the spirit of true religion. In this faith alone, lies the hope of our victory. Having achieved this, the main task is all but over and such humanity in whose bosom the divine flame has been kindled will spontaneously direct all endeavours towards the materialization of all these ideals.

May the world be free from the fear of war and destruction; from fanaticism of religious intolerance, racial prejudices and hatred; from the delusion of fostering civilization through enslavement; from the self-righteous pride of charity and doing good to others; and from ungodliness and the diabolical dialectics of materialism.

May peace be unto all beings!

—printed in YOGA, Vol. XIV, No. 1, January 1976