I belong to a closed Facebook group that posts a lot of really interesting things that I might otherwise not see. I’m grateful for this and for the group, and a lot of the posts I’ve seen in it, but I feel like it’s also shown me something I suspect is terribly prevalent throughout humanity and am disappointed by – in fact, more than once I’ve considered leaving the group because of this thing (among others). This thing is our addiction to externality.
We love our rituals and religions. For those inclined toward suchery, a huge chunk of one’s identity can be placed into religious practices. For many, indeed most, this is a natural part of one’s development. There’s no harm in this. One, however, can become trapped in this and what eventually happens is that religion and its rituals stick around long after they’ve gone dead. To share a quote I placed on my Facebook page recently by Chariji, “In fact, all spiritual traditions speak of religion as the kindergarten through which we have to pass.”
Sri Parathasarathi Rajagopalachari, who comes from a Vaishnav family and is the third and current master of my Parampara / Sampradaya, has said a lot on this matter. He tells us that every religion in the world says the same thing, “Seek within,” but that we have mostly lost sight of this and that our rituals have instead become the aim. He also cautions us about becoming too religious saying, “Religion enforces an externalization of the mind in man’s search for God. Mysticism or spirituality internalizes the search and directs the mind to the heart of man where the search really should commence.” (These words and others are surprisingly “bhakt” considering the history of this lineage.) Beyond these words, he went on to say that he’s not suggesting religion is dead, but that it should instead evolve “like I evolve, you evolve, like my child evolves.”
While speaking to a friend about this, it was mentioned that there’s a time and place where religion and ritual are needed. I fully agree. Certainly, for each of us, there’s a time and place where we’re the most benefited from this. But I would assert that we still have to be on guard. People are often fools, after all. People are often asleep behind the wheel – as any study of the ego will reveal. And this is the Kali Yuga, a period of time when we’re most likely to become misguided. I personally have known and currently known a number of people who could be (and eventually will be) even “more” than they are because they refuse to budge in their growth. I think this is why I’ve ranted more than once about folks being lazy. We tend to find a rule book we like, and then get comfortable.
Sri Chariji Maharaj (Sri Parathasarathi Rajagopalachari) says where religion ends, spirituality begins, and where spirituality ends Reality begins. He goes on to say, “…and where Reality ends, then commences that stage of the ultimate existence which for the lack of better word he calls Bliss. Now it is clear from this that religion has to have a definite end in the pursuit of our goal.”
I don’t plan to cease adoration of my beloved Ganapati. In fact, here soon, I’ll be observing the monthly Sankashti which follows every full moon. Although I no longer am as steadfast as I once was, I’ll continue my japa sadhana. I’ll continue abstaining from meat and will still go to temple. These things, of course, are all religious observances for me (well, except for the vegetarianism) and although I don’t “need” most of them (hell, sometimes I don’t even want some of them), I’ll still enjoy them. My lesson here is that we can too easily end up identifying with and clinging to things that are meant eventually to be left behind. I fully believe that most humans linger behind in certain areas long after they should – long after they’re actually able to transcend. It’s like staying in kindergarten long after you have mastered your ABCs and 123s.
Aum Sri Mahaganeshaya Namaha