Written by and © Udayabhanu Panickar
Often people assume that the dictum of Shree NArAyaNa Gurudevan “One in Kind, One in Faith, and One in God is Human” (oru jaathi oru matham oru daivam manushyanu – ഒരു ജാതി ഒരു മതം ഒരു ദൈവം മനുഷ്യന്) is a free license for accepting a religion. This is far from the truth. A comprehensive study of Gurudevan’s words and deeds can clearly show this.
On many occasions Gurudevan has been misquoted and thus misunderstood on the subject of Spiritual Evasion and Invasion, which often some people refer to as “Religious Conversion”. Knowingly or unknowingly a lot of people made statements on this without doing a comprehensive study of all the words and deeds of Gurudevan on this subject. To fully understand Gurudevan’s messages and teachings, we must always explore the circumstances under which HE made each remark and each action HE took. Only then we can explicitly understand the essence of HIS articulate and well-calculated statements of limited words and gracious and gallant actions on this, or any other subject.
Gurudevan never imposed his Wisdom and Vision upon any one. However, HIS commanding appearance, honorable & conclusive words and HIS challenging and very effective actions were good enough for anyone to accept his authority and guidance without skepticism. According to the people who interacted with HIM, His eyes, words, actions and postures were highly impressive, thus effectual. No one could ever act against his wishes and words. No one could ever oppose to his actions because they were so perfect and timely. The genuineness, truth and sincerity of his words and deeds always overcame any doubt any one may have had about HIM and HIS divinity, intentions divine insights and knowledge.
On different occasions Gurudevan made clear remarks on accepting a religion or changing the course of Spiritual progression. At certain occasions he accepted people into the community and also brought back people who accepted a religion, thus preventing Spiritual Evasion and Spiritual Invasion at the same time. He also prevented people from doing it just for convenience, and material benefits. We can see examples of these actions based on HIS Wisdom, Vision, convictions and Spiritual conclusions in HIS life history.
HE never believed that the accepting a religion is in any way a threat to the society; provided if that acceptance is based on real understanding. HE very strongly emphasized that any such change must be executed purely on the basis of a person’s ‘belief born out of understanding’. No change should be made for any kind of materialistic benefits, temporary or long-term; convenience or as an escape route from discrimination, prejudice and persecution or anything else. Gurudevan only professed and advocated acceptance of a religion or Spiritual course based on these philosophies and fact based assumption. Here are few examples.
During HIS time, a family of Kannoor accepted Christianity for certain benefits; but not out of beliefs, and certainly not with understanding. However after some time, when they realized their mistake; this family desired to come back. But their previous community opposed the return. Gurudevan, when heard about this; intervened and asked the families and the community leaders concerned, to take them back into the community. Gurudevan’s arguments were so convincing that this was done happily by the community.
In Neyyattinkara, there were some families who accepted Christianity due to the discrimination and persecution existed at that time in the name of caste. But after witnessing the progress made due to the work of Gurudevan and his disciples, these families wanted to come back. But the community was not ready to accept them back. When approached, Gurudevan very happily took them back.
In the village of Vazhappalli, near Changanasherry; there lived a limited number of families of a community known as ‘PichanAttu KuruppanmAR’. They were small in number. This community was in a very difficult situation during Gurudevan’s time. In some respect they were considered lower in the social spectrum. But at the same time they were allowed entry in to the temples and allowed to walk the roads, where a lot of other communities were not. However the communities at the higher spectrum did not socially accept them. This coupled with the limited number of members in their own community, they had difficulty in functioning socially and they faced isolation. This isolation almost forced their leader, Mr Krishnan VaidyaR to make a decision for accepting Christianity for the whole community. This was a “Conversion of convenience”.
Sarasakavi Mooloor Padmanabha Panicker, a disciple of Gurudevan, who was very active in the welfare of the community and who used Gurudevan’s messages to unite and make progress for the entire population, (not just one community or just the so-called AvaRNaR, but for all the people); by dissemination of Gurudevan’s wisdom, informed HIM of this and requested that the ‘PichanAttu KuruppanmAR’ be accepted into the community so that this deceptive Spiritual Invasion and the Evasion (or the “conversion of convenience”) could be avoided. Gurudevan happily accepted the proposal of Mooloor, and congratulated Mooloor for taking such a bold and courageous step. Gurudevan personally accepted them into the community. This was done at a public meeting in the presence of a large crowed which included leaders of various communities and religious groups.
Gandhiji during his visit to Shivagiri, (to meet Gurudevan) asked a specific question to HIM on this subject. The question was ‘Is conversion (accepting a religion) necessary for mOkSham?” Gurudevan’s reply was specific and to the point. HE replied that it is not at all needed for mOksham. He also asked Gurudevan if our Spiritual practices are adequate for this purpose. To this, HIS reply was also perfectly clear. HE stated that they are “perfectly adequate”.
Gurudevan on one occasion in a message to SNDP Yogam said that, ‘Renaissance should not be an effort of accepting a religion or converting from one religion to another. Our organization should be one that will unite all humans. Religion should permit freedom of belief. Religion should be acceptable to the intellectual mind and it should lead common people to do pure, good and noble deeds (Sanathana Dharma) in life. “One in Kind, One in Faith, One in God is Human” is such an opinion. We feel that all the people who believe in this Eternal Truth should join together under this organization. The idea of such an organization shall be a noble one. People who think that accepting a religion is the only way of eradicating discrimination and persecution can consider this as a religious conversion and (at the same time) a declaration of independence from the discrimination, without discarding our Spirituality.’
According to Gurudevan, religions have the same goal. That is to guide people to the “Eternal Truth” or prepare them to understand the ‘Absolute Truth’. Once that is done people will find the “Truth” themselves. The teachings of the Masters are only to help them in their quest for the “Truth”. In HIS opinion, all spiritual paths are the tools for the understanding of that “Truth”. None of them can claim to be the only source or the only way. Common man must follow the path of their own choice after learning and scrutinizing them.
Gurudevan’s messages indicated that the teachings and Spiritual guidelines given by the Spiritual Masters were according to the need of the place and circumstances existed at that particular period of time. As changes occur in time and place some of those principles may need modifications. May be the interpretations of those teachings needs to be reevaluated and restated. That responsibility is of the intellectuals and Spiritual Masters. They should also eradicate the anti-social and discriminatory elements, which lurked into them.
In Gurudevan’s opinion any Spiritual Practice has two aspects, internal and external. If accepting a change is for the external aspect, which is not a Spiritual change at all, that is only a social change. As regards to the internal or the Spiritual values concerned, it is always changing as the individual’s ability to think and contemplate advances. (Remember, in relegions this change cannot happen as they are supposed to follow a set of rules and regulations; and if this happens, it shall be against the norms of that religion.) That change cannot be made with any external force. It has to come from within the people themselves, and that can only happen as the depth of Spiritual knowledge increases. So, accepting a religion for material benefits; or for any other reason without the proper understanding of IT, is just an intellectual slavery, not Spiritual practice. Remember religion is a social setup and our Spiritual practices are not. Gurudevan categorically stated that anyone who does not believe in a particular path must not stay with it, which clearly indicates and emphasizes that accepting a religion or Spiritual Practice must come with understanding of what they are getting into and what they are getting out of.
According to Gurudevan, almost every religion is a collection of codes or teachings of one personality, even though it may contain bits of teachings from others. But our Spirituality which is often refered as “Hindu Religion” is actually a collection of religions, thus, the codified collective teachings of a group of Spiritual Masters.
Let us take an example from the nature and try to understand this point. Look at the ocean and the rivers. Once the rivers merge in to the ocean, can any one point out the water of any particular river? No, it is impossible. Now let us go further and take water from different parts of the ocean and taste it. All tastes the same. It is very similar in the case of different religions and our Spirituality. The relegions are same in essence, but superficially different. That is the difference between our braHMavidya and religions. Religions are one directional and flowes just in one direction, like the Rever. But BraHMavidya, which is the Spiritual Practice of our good old bhAratham, is constantly expands with more and more Spiritual thoughts. That is why it is braHMavidya. Remember all the rivers have their origin from the ocean to start with.
According to Gurudevan the essence of all the Spiritual teachings, which emphasis on the betterment of the society as a whole when put together could be called as the “One Religion” HE professed for.
The eternal values such as love, brotherhood, charity, dedication, truth, undiscriminating, freedom are all equally important. One is not better than the other or inferior to another. Relegions may have some of it. But braHMavidya has it all. According to the time and place, certain values get more importance. It does not mean that others are to be neglected or an ideology based on that is inferior. But they are not fully equipped whereas braHMavidya is.
What is the need of the society now, at this time? That is what the intellectual and the spiritual community should deliver to the common people. The world is in a very dangerous stage now. There are conflicts all over the globe, almost every one of them based on religion. What should be the remedy for this? We, the whole world must try to understand others opinion, on each and every matter with an open mind, mutual respect and mutual understanding. We should try to study each other’s ideology, culture, and administrative systems of all kinds, starting with their own first. This should be done not in a confrontational or aggressive or discriminatory way; or to high jack it and claim ownership later; as it is done now. It should be in a very friendly atmosphere (without deception) and it should be a cooperative effort. The objective should be to understand the others and to make others understand your side of the spectrum with respect for all. Only then the whole picture can be understood and problems solved.
The problem is universal. Understanding the entire picture only can give you a vision of remedy. And for sure the remedy will materialize if all can understand their own and each other’s beliefs, customs, needs, programs and problems and restrain from creating problems by forcing own agenda on others. Then people will understand that the requirement of the time is not religious, ideological or Spiritual change, but understanding and respecting each other. The need of the time is, “understanding”. That could be achieved by the learning of Gurudevan’s teachings, which are, completely imbedded in braHMavidya the spirituality of our good old bhAratham.
Once Gurudevan said that the conflicts are not due to religion or the chosen Spiritual paths; but it is due to the intoxication of the mind with the blind belief, which leads to ‘not understanding’ or misunderstanding, the other side. This is what should be removed. For that the society, now more than ever, the world needs Narayana Gurudevan’s spiritual guidance. Learning HIS Spiritual works is the solution.
Our spiritual heritage is not a cult or a creed. It is not a dogma, or a one-way single path to heaven. It is a multiple lane Super highway for moksham, which is the merger of jeevAtman with paramAtman. It is not even just a religion as such; nor is it just a way of life. It is the complete and comprehensive collection of divine knowledge of the Absolute Truth, which, when learned and practiced; can lead people to the experience of the Absolute and the Ultimate Bliss. It is a continuously evolving and absorbing science; “The Science of the Absolute”, a flexible body of Divine knowledge centered on the quest of the jeevAtman (for the English speaking world, we may refer this as soul) for its’ birthright, ‘the divine realization’. In addition, it makes provisions for all jeevAtman in this quest. Yet, it remains immeasurable as it safeguards the very purpose of all life everywhere and in all things. We may call It Sanathana DhaRMam, but never categorize it just as a religion, or just as a way of life. It is much Greater and Spiritual than both. The wise called it “The Science of Spirituality”, The Science of the Absolute”, “The Science of the Self” or “The Science of the Soul”; It is braHMavidya.
This can very easily be understood if we learn HIS Spiritual works and understand the wisdom contained in it.
(Note: This article was originally written in 1996. It has been reworded now with some modification.)