The Spiritual Call

The Spiritual Call

As published in The Harmonist (Sree Sajjanatoshani)
Edited by Paramahamsa Paribrajakacharyya Sri Srimad Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Maharaj

JUNE 1933

THE call for the service of the Absolute must not be confounded with the call for the offer of any bodily or mental function to any limited concern of this mundane existence. The continuance of the aptitude for worldliness shuts out all possibility of spiritual awakening.

It is easy to deny the existence of the soul apart from and independently of the body and mind. It is not at all easy to prove that we can be satisfied with any form of mere bodily and mental existence. The body and mind bind ourselves to this world and its concerns. The ideals and prospects of living, which have been realised by their means up till now, have always been recognised as essentially unwholesome and trivial by the better judgment of the race. The world has always been in travail for bringing forth some ideal that is worthier than any mental concoction. This is the psychological urge of the religious quest.

Ethical thought itself, which is perceived as making the high-water level reached by the developed conscience of the race and which certainly represents the characteristics excellence of the truly civilized man, is being felt to be inadequate, at any rate in its current forms, and to need immediate and drastic rehabilitation. The discoveries and inventions of the physical Sciences have proved to be a source of new miseries and embarrasments of no mean order. In fact these cherished possessions of the race are to go the way of all the flesh to the refuse heap for being replaced by very different arrangements of the same trivial stuff. Is it desirable that this periodical readjustment should cease altogether? Is it practicable to effect a permanently stable and really satisfactory ordering of the affairs of humanity on any line? The League of Nations sitting at Geneva is engaged in considering the ways and means for some sort of a stable organisation, being forced there unto by the terrible prospect of an impending catastrophe threatening to overtake the whole race. There is no avoiding the issue under the time honoured plea that it is insoluble.

But the perception of the difficulties of the worldly situation and the inadequacy of the remedies proposed by the official creeds for their cure, is not again the spiritual call, but only one more futile call for a fresh synthesis in the light of ever-changing human thought. It is to this familiar end that the efforts of the representatives of the Nations assembled at Geneva are being directed. The physical scientists undoubtedly possess the lead in the councils of mankind at this present critical juncture. They believe in the practicability of ensuring the progressive improvement of the affairs of man, with the resources of knowledge derived from this phenomenal world by the methods of experiment and observation. Nature is the source of all ills that flesh is heir to. Nature is to be the kind mother to heal all wounds inflicted by her on her children, if they persist in enquiring of her. She can give man unmixed and lasting happiness by making him strong and wise in body and mind. She is supposed to be able even to perpetuate human life, which is the highest of boons conceivable.

Their recommendation is being acted upon by thinking sections of humanity with single hearted devotion in the modern Age, with very satisfactory results on the whole. The age has progressed by leaps and bounds towards the realisation of the promised ideal felicity. But as the goal is not a stationary one, there have always been evoked the necessary salutary drawbacks for stimulating the efforts of the workers for achieving an ever-expanding happy result.

But have these brilliant scientific activities no really definable termination? Does their constructive force decisively exceed their destructive power? Is the happiness offered by their constructive face really acceptable to the better judgment of the race? For example, the sciences are multiplying luxuries and amenities. Are these valuable for their own sake, or as palliatives of an otherwise intolerable condition created by the very methods that are being recommended and fostered by the secular thought itself?

This is the enquiry on the threshold of spiritual life. The physical sciences, including the empiric philosophical systems and so-called rational interpretations of the revealed scriptures offered by empiric thought, can but promise amelioration. If the race neglects their advice, its sufferings are palpably increased in intensity and volume. It is on this observed fact that the empiric thought takes its stand. The attempt at the multiplication of so-called cures and palliatives for the manifold evils which hold out no hope of ever ceasing of their own accord, is the natural outcome of the demands of the present position.

But will the present position, after the elimination of all its so-called evils, be worth retaining at all? We are so busy with the operation of fighting the besetting evils that we have not a moment to spare for thinking out the issue to any real conclusion.

The call to spiritual living insists, at the very first moment of its real appearance, that we must make time for reconsidering the whole position in a dispassionate mood. We must cease for the nonce to the parties to the quarrels of pedants who, in their anxiety to confine themselves to the so-called needs of the moments, dogmatically shut the door on the serious consideration of the real issue. There is absolutely no necessity for this abnormal haste and impatience. What shall we do with this life? Shall we try to perpetuate it? Shall we try to improve it? Is it worth either perpetuation or improvement? What is this life? Is it body? Is it bodyless? Which of these should be our objective? Are not these questions very relevant? Has modern thought given its serious attention to them? Is justifying in neglecting them on principle? Should it continue to neglect them? Or should it concentrate exclusively? The spiritual call proposes the last course. What is the use of one’s persevering in activities that are without a clear purpose? Is it an analogous, but not the identical, mood that made Descartes and Bacon pause to take stock of the whole position and suggest a consistent line of conduct for the adoption of the race. Bacon is content to suppose that life means the body and comforts of the body. The mind is found to depend for its sustenance and nourishment, on the body. The body is tacitly adopted by him as the sole tangible basis of the whole activities of the race. He gives the decent burial to the thoughts of the deductive schools who were trying to meet the needs of this life by equivocal inferences from the words of Bible, without caring to have a look on the world in which it was necessary for them to live and have all their present interests. The metaphysical back-ground of the frank materialism of the inductive schools is supplied by Descartes who identifies the individual with his thoughts. The extreme form of this line of speculation is to be found in such expressions of Shakespeare as, ‘There is nothing good or bad. But thinking makes it so’. But Shakespeare himself doubted the truth of it when he penned, ‘Our little life is rounded with a sleep.’ There is an inexplicable background to the present life. That background is located beyond our thoughts; so that if we begin with ‘thought’ we are committed to ‘our little life’ and its petty concerns which cannot satisfy us because they are really ‘petty’ and as such not in themselves alone worthy of man’s complete personality. Thought cannot analyse itself. It cannot go beyond its own narrow limits. But thought is capable of being really aware of its insufficiency. Its inadequacy cannot, however, be supplied by itself, although it can be ignored and denied by the exercise of its prerogative of being dishonest. How can this inexplicable and inaccessible background of life be reached by our admittedly inadequate present resources? This is the first real question on the path of spiritual enquiry. Therefore, the spiritual call is clearly distinguishable from the calls to worldly activities conditioned by the resources of human thought directed to the exploitation of Physical Nature, by two specific characteristics. The spiritual call recognises the inadequacy and non-finality of human thought. It recognises the unsatisfactory nature of activities under the direction of human thought, by reason of the absence of any clear acceptable purpose therein. This is the negative aspect. The positive aspect of the spiritual call involves the conviction of the necessity for the search of a worthy goal with resources other than those of human thought directed to the exploitation of physical nature, by two specific characteristics. The spiritual call recognises the inadequacy and non-finality of human thought, by reason of the absence of any clear acceptable purpose therein. This is the negative aspect. The positive aspect. The positive aspect of the spiritual call involves the conviction of the necessity for the search of a worthy goal with resources other than those of human thought operating on physical Nature. It involves the assumption of the practicability of this preliminary quest with our present resources. The revealed Scriptures express the above fact in a cleaner manner in terms of concrete realisation. They declare that the Object of quest cannot be any other than the Absolute Truth in as much as our nature is essentially rational and inquisitive. This perfects the dictum of Descartes and allows the real function and importance to human thought even in its present crippled form. The Scriptures further declare that the Absolute in His Full Manifestation is the Ultimate Reality Who is Concrete, or, in other words, that He a Person Whose Activities are also reciprocal Divine Personalities. The Concrete Absolute Truth is the proper logical equivalent of the Transcendental Active Supreme Personality. The Activity of the Supreme Person also means that He is both Male and Female, i.e., Predominating and Predominated Entity. Being all-Knowledge the Supreme Person and His subservients possess the absolute initiative. The Supreme Person, Male and Female, is the Object of quest with our present inadequate resources. It is practicable to approach Him with our present utterly inadequate equipments because the initiative is taken by the Absolute Himself. The Initiative of the Absolute manifests Himself as the activities of persons subsequent to their spiritual awakening. The Living source of all such activities is the Absolute Himself and His Eternal Paraphernalia. The Absolute manifests Himself in the Form of the Transcendental Sound on the lips of his devotees. The Transcendental Sound is, therefore, the only intelligible Means. It is not possible for any person to receive the Message of His devotee unless he is prepared to approach Him with unconditional submission that is due to the Absolute Master, Who is identical with His Message. The personality of the devotee is thus the key to the whole position. It is, therefore, incumbent on every person to seek the help of the bona fide devotee of the Absolute, always bearing in mind the caution that the devotee is not recognisable by any worldly tests of ability, imperfect morals, etc., but reveals his spiritual nature through his spoken words to those who are prepared to submit to the servant of the Absolute for receiving and retaining their spiritual enlightenment by his causeless grace.