The Quintessence of Religion
By Anand Krishna
For The Bali Times
Atmano Mokshartham Jagat-Hitaya cha. Those in Bali who are still committed to the spiritual values and cultural heritage of their ancestors consider this the quintessence of their belief. Iti Dharma: this is righteousness; this is religion.
But what does the maxim mean?
Literally, it means “For one’s own liberation and for the welfare of the world.”
Unfortunately, in the popular Indonesian translation, this meaning is completely lost. “Bahagia lahir batin, dan kesempurnaan abadi,” or “physical/emotional happiness, and eternal perfection” – as the phrase is translated – misses the very spirit of this maxim popularized by Swami Vivekananda about 100 years ago.
“For one’s own liberation and for the welfare of the world” – the maxim calls for personal, individual moksha, or liberation, before the welfare of the world. Let us remember this: moksha first, and everything else comes next.
Moksha, here, does not pertain to a state after death, as commonly believed, but to a state here and now. It is total freedom in this very life, which explains the placement of moksha before the welfare of the world. This maxim is very life-friendly, and very practical too.
We must also bear in mind that moksha is not the same as “salvation” from the religious point of view. For salvation may require a saviour and a complete “salvage program,” including but not limited to an institution to endorse the programme. Moksha does not depend on a person or an institution to liberate. It relies on its own virtue. Moksha implies total freedom, freedom from all kinds of dependencies.
Moksha is freedom from the vagaries of mind, turbulence of emotions and, above all, freedom from fear. It is freedom from self-imposed limitation upon the soul, as also freedom from delusion, and ignorance.
An ignorant person cannot think of his own welfare – how can he then think of the welfare of the world? So we must first free ourselves from our ignorance. Let us not think of others. Let us first think of ourselves. No mater how selfish this may sound to many of us, conditioned with certain dogmas and doctrines, this is the only sensible course of action.
Can I help a drowning person, if I do not know how to swim? Can I help you if I am handicapped and in need of help myself? Can I donate a single cent if I do not have any money?
Your “self” comes first; your health comes first; your welfare, and your security, comes first. This is practical religion. For it is only when you are healthy, well and secure that you can possibly share health, wellbeing and security with others. Be joyful first, for it is only then that you can share your joy with others.
Moksha demands truthfulness and honesty in their stark nakedness. Moksha is freedom from hypocrisy. It is facing the facts of life, no matter how hard. It is staring at the reality of life, no matter how bitter. Moksha is the way of the warriors. A coward cannot walk this way.
Once liberated in your soul, you are ready to think about the welfare of the world. Not before that. Alas, nowadays even the welfare of the world is institutionalized. And people who are still enslaved by their mind, fears, obsessions and outdated, irrelevant social customs and traditions head the institutions.
Pseudo-leaders run our villages, towns, cities and states. They are slaves in the garb of leaders. Weakened by their hunger for power and authority, their soul is not free. Yet they get elected. Why? This is because, we, the people who elect them, are equally weak and not free.
It’s time for reflection now. Before venturing upon jagat hita – the welfare of the world – let us strive to attain moksha first – total freedom. Let us liberate ourselves from the bondage of mind and emotions. Let us free ourselves from the shackles of irrelevant, age-old traditions and social customs. Let us be reborn anew.
Then the next step is to realise the following four Ss. The first is Sensitivity. Are we sensitive enough to the suffering of others? We have to be very honest about this. Is my sensitivity towards them, the others, in the same measure as my sensitivity towards those who are near and dear to me?
If I put my family affairs above the affairs of my village, my town, my city or my state – then I am not ready to head any of them. Similarly, if I am overtly concerned about my state and my nation, then I am not in the position to do anything good for the world. Forget the welfare of the world.
Why do we spend so much time and money, and waste so much energy, discussing climate change, global warming and other issues? The answer is that we have not positioned ourselves as world citizens. Not yet. We are still thinking of our short-term monetary gains and losses, forgetting the fact that our state, our nation and we have no existence outside this world. What kind of economy is this? And what kind of sensibility? A bunch of insensible economists are involved in discussions on the environment. They are the very same economists who have failed us time and again with their wrong predictions, forecasts, and speculations. God save us!
The second S stands for Sincerity. Are we sincere about our concerns? Are we really thinking about the welfare of the world? Most of our so-called social activists would not move an inch if not funded by agencies inside and outside the country. For them, activism is a profession. What can we expect from them?
Sincerity implies working without any selfish motive. Selfishness is shunned once we attain moksha, or total freedom. It is only the free that can work selflessly. It is only the free that can serve without any selfish reason. Slaves work for their living. They cannot possibly serve. Service is a virtue of free men and free women.
The third S is Solution. We can be very sensitive, and very sincere about our concerns, but do we have solutions? Where are we different from those who are currently running the affairs of the world?
Lastly, the fourth S is for Skill. We must be skilful enough to translate our solutions into an applicable plan of action. If we are not, then we must first develop such skills.
These four Ss are four pillars upon which we can build our personal integrity. Next, we capitalize on such integrity to work selflessly for the welfare of the world.
What an ideal! What a definition of religion!
Shame on us, if we use “Atmano Mokshartham Jagat-Hitaya cha” as a slogan only. And shame on us if we misinterpret the slogan to suit our convenience.
We have forgotten the true goal of religion. Our children are taught the wrong meaning of the slogan right from their primary education. It is no surprise, therefore, if we find so many ills in our society.
We have to transform our society; mere reformations here and there are not sufficient. There is a lot of work to be done. Sleep no more; slumber not – night is past. It is time to wake up. “Utishtthita Jagrita Prapya-Varan Nibodhayata” – Arise, Awake, Stop not, till the Goal is Reached!
The writer is a spiritual activist and author of more than 120 books. To know more about his activities in Bali, call Aryana or Debbie on 0361 7801595 or 8477490; or visit www.aumkar.org and www.anandkrishna.org.Filed under: Anand Krishna