Divinity Vs Morality

To any blogger, queries from readers are indeed valuable. ‘Comments’ section in blogs admirably fulfills the need by actually facilitating two-way communication between the writer and the reader. I try to answer many of the queries that come to me as response to what was written earlier in this Blog.

It is not uncommon also to get fresh queries unconnected to any of the Posts that I wrote. Perhaps the reader feels a sort of comfort in asking those questions that are not discussed about but indirectly reading my responses written with a personal touch, is encouraged to ask.

Recently AG, one devotee-reader (?) (because I do not know yet this person!) asked a one-line query:
“Is it true that morality has nothing to do with Divinity?”
Why this question arose in her mind was because she “was told this by another…..on Facebook…”. Fair enough! 

I am giving below what I replied to her.

Dear AG-
According to Vedanta, the Divinity is within us and is pure, untainted, immutable, etc. Therefore, no karma, good or otherwise, will affect it. It is thus easy (most of the times wrongly) to conclude that there can be no connection between morality and the divinity of the soul.

1. From the point of view of sadhana:
Sri Ramakrishna does not tell us so. A man who led an immoral life still said that his soul could not be affected in any way, giving the above principle as defence. Sri Ramakrishna was irritated ‘I spit on that Vedanta that teaches so!’

2. All our great Teachers and spiritual luminaries were men and women of great moral and ethical standing. In fact, one may say that their greatness lay in no small measure upon their moral basis of their existence.

3. It is therefore that we find in the ancient Upanishads, Gita, Ramayana, and the modern scriptures like the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, etc, such an emphasis on right conduct.

4. In the Yoga Sutras of Rishi Patanjali: Yama and Niyama (the do’s and don’ts of spiritual life – the basic moral code of conduct) are presented first, and then only the the other steps (asana, etc ) follow.

5. The recommended steps in any spiritual practice does nothing more than reveal the Divinity that is hidden from us. Just as scum covers the surface of the pool and we cannot see the water, so too ignorance / attachments / desires /actions (good / bad) / egotism, cover the atman. Sadhana is a means of removing ignorance – as much as one sees the clear water only when the scum is removed.

6. The instruments to do this are the very same instruments that will bring about release from the samsara chakra – cycle of births and deaths.
Cf: the chariot image in Katha Upanishad. The soul is the master of the chariot, the body is the chariot, the intellect is the charioteer, the mind, is the rein.
In the ordinary being, as Swami Yatiswarananda says (in Meditation and Spiritual Life – I hope and wish that you must get a copy through RH) that the soul is drunk; intellect, the charioteer, has fallen unconscious; the reins, the mind, have become slack; the horses, the senses, are running wild. And a great disaster awaits .
Unless we do something. That is lead a controlled life based on moral principles.

7. Our natural tendency is for us to revolve towards the world… for gain, name, fame, etc. When we turn away from this tendency, then begins religion and morality (Swami Vivekananda ~ : Non-attachment is complete self abnegation)

8. That which is selfish is immoral, and that which is unselfish is moral.

9. All great teachers and social reformers had this in common — all were unselfish; had turned away from their little self to the rest of the world identifying with the Universal Self.
-Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda

According to the Advaita philosophy, the differentiation of matter hide the real nature of man; but the latter really has not been changed at all. In the lowest worm, as well as in the highest human being, the same divine nature is present. The worm form is the lower form in which the divinity has been more overshadowed by Maya consisting of the three gunas; that is the highest form in which it has been least overshadowed. Behind everything the same divinity is existing, and out of this comes the basis of morality.

“Do not injure another. Love everyone as your own self, because the whole universe is one. In injuring another, I am injuring myself; in loving another, I am loving myself.” From this also springs that principle of Advaita morality which has been summed up in one word – self-abnegation.

The Advaitin says, this little personalised self is the cause of all my misery. This individualised self, which makes me different from all other beings brings hatred and jealousy and misery, struggle and all other evils. And when this idea has been got rid of, all struggle will cease, all misery vanish. So this is to be given up. We must always hold ourselves ready, even to give up our lives for the lowest beings. When a man has become ready even to give up his life for a little insect, he has reached the perfection which the Advaitist wants to attain; and at that moment when he has become thus ready, the veil of ignorance falls away from him, and he will feel his own nature. Even in this life, he will feel that he is one with the universe. For a time, as it were, the whole of this phenomenal world will disappear for him, and he will realise what he is.

All that we call ethics and morality and doing good to others is also but the manifestation of this oneness. There are moments when every man feels that he is one with the universe, and he rushes forth to express it, whether he knows it or not. This expression of oneness is what we call love and sympathy, and it is the basis of all our ethics and morality. This is summed up in the Vedanta philosophy by the celebrated aphorism, Tat Tvam Asi, “Thou art That”.

Lord is pure; therefore those who have this sameness for all, and are pure, are said to be “living in God.” This is the gist of Vedantic morality – this sameness for all.

May Master be with you and bring you peace and prosperity!

With love and best wishes
Swami Vimokshananda

Adults’ Religious Education

I wrote in my earlier posts about the Religious Education for children. Our Centre has not stopped there. We have Adults’ Courses too. These Courses are called Hindu Studies course and Bhagavad Gita Studies Course.

Deputy Dean Vijaynand Mohanlal with Dean Swami Saradaprabhananda
Deputy Dean Vijaynand Mohanlal with Dean Swami Saradaprabhananda

Exams are conducted by the Faculty of Peace studies, Spirituality and Culture, run by Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa every year and successful students are given Certificates during a Graduation Ceremony.

This year the Graduation Ceremony was held at Nischalananda Hall in HQ on 28 March, 2009 and for the Northern Natal Graduates, it was held at Ladysmith Town Hall on 4 April, 2009. When I heard in person and re-read later the Welcome Address given by Vijaynand Mohanlal who is the Deputy Dean of this Faculty, I thought I should place here some excerpts that will give you an idea in all its glory about this wonderful work.
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Welcome Address by Vijaynand Mohanlal, Deputy Dean:

Revered Swami Vimokshananda, Revered Swami Saradaprabhananda, Pravrajika Ishtaprana Mataji, our Guest of Honour, Dr P L Patel and Mrs Patel, members of the Academic Staff, our successful candidates, Distinguished Guests, members of Sister Organisations, Ladies and Gentlemen
Om Namo Narayanaya!

Ever since his return from India in 1953 till his passing away in 1965, the founder of our Centre, Sri Swami Nischalananda pioneered the course of Vedanta in Southern Africa and initiated a vigorous educational programme by way of lectures and literature to overcome the ignorance among the masses regarding Hinduism. Many Hindu organisations at the time were given an impetus and drew inspiration from the many ideas which Swami Nischalananda had introduced to educate the general Hindu population and others who came into contact with him.

The Ramakrishna Centre of  South Africa continues in this tradition till this day. The offering of the Certificate in Hindu Studies course by the Centre followed by the Certificate in Bhagavad Gita Studies, through distance and supported learning mode has put the study of our great Religious and Cultural heritage within easy reach of many who wanted to study this but who could find no structured programme to follow.

These courses provide a general overview of Hinduism, with its various components such as Hindu scriptures, philosophies, ethics, festivals, deities, symbolism and so on. The minimum duration of each of these programmes is one year, which is divided into two semesters. A written exam in conducted in each semester. Students are also assessed through assignments, a percentage of which contributes towards the final the final mark s for the course.

The cost of these courses has been subsidized by the Centre and includes textbooks, postages costs and examination fees. Students must be in possession of a Matric Certificate to enroll for the Certificate in Hindu Studies course. Admission may also be granted based on recognition of prior learning. The pre-requisite to enroll for the Certificate in Bhagavad Gita Studies is the Certificate in Hindu Studies.

A synopsis of the course is also given in the programme which you have in your possession.

We are beholden to Professor Swami Atmapriyananda, Vice Chancellor of the Vivekananda University, Kolkata for his guidance and blessings for our educational offerings. We also had the support of a highly qualified and competent staff with which we have managed the course.

Once again I am happy to note that the attitude and discipline with which students generally approached their studies made one feel proud. Both the courses were pitched at first year University level and required disciplined work on their part. Their commitment and the eagerness with which they did their work was evident in the quality of their assignments and in their written examinations…

We have looked into supplementing the course material for the Bhagavad Gita Studies to further assist students in understanding the many important concepts and topics covered in the Bhagavad Gita. An added feature in the 2009 Academic year will be self-study exercises for which solution guides will be sent to students. These exercises will be very focussed and will help broaden the students’ knowledge of the syllabus…

A distinguishing feature of our student population was that they represented a cross-section of the community and work force and included bank managers, educators, attorneys, doctors, social workers, accountants, pharmacists, physiotherapists, housewives, technicians and a host of other professions. Many indicated to us the normal pressure in the work environment; however most of the students persevered with their studies. A few of the original entrants had to discontinue or defer their studies due to work pressure, relocation difficulties and other reasons.

We are also striving to take the examination venues as close as possible to our students. This year exams were written at 10 venues throughout the country with the latest venue being Cape Town.

Examinations are written under strict exam conditions and compares with guidelines laid down by higher education institutions.

We are happy to announce that in the 2008 Academic year our students achieved a very high success rate. Of the 48 students who qualified to sit for the Hindu Studies exam, 46 students successfully completed the course giving us a 96% success rate. Of the 61 who qualified to sit for the Bhagavad Gita Studies exam, all students successfully completed the course.
(Ladies and gentlemen I think they deserve a hearty round of applause.)

A new course aimed at Sunday School Teachers is in the preparatory stages and will be offered in the 2010 Academic year. Details regarding this course will be made available during the course of this year.

We have also had enquiries from those not is possession of a Matric Certificate wanting to study courses in Hinduism. We have identified course material for such a course and work has commenced in putting this course together.

Once again, on behalf of the Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa, I would like to extend our hearty congratulations to all students who successfully completed the Certificate in Hindu Studies course and the Certificate in Bhagavad Gita course. We trust that you will continue to enrich your lives with the study of Hinduism.

To see all the photos of the Graduation Ceremony held at HQ, just click on the below link that will take you to the picasa web album. There click ‘slideshow’, then press F11 in your keyboard for Full screen view, relax and watch!

HQ Graduation Ceremony

To see all the photos of the Graduation Ceremony held at Ladysmith for the Northern Natal Graduates, just click on the below link that will take you to the picasa web album. There click ‘slideshow’, then press F11 in your keyboard for Full screen view, relax and watch!

Northern Natal Graduation Ceremony