Kathopanishad is a unique Upanishad which starts with a katha (a story) of a young boy who is ready to face the Lord of Death in his quest for Truth to know what lies beyond death. He asks the very pertinent and philosophical question, "Is there or is there not, and if it what is it"
In short, this teaching is an extravaganza of spiritual knowledge and meditation that guides a student step by step to the glorious state of immortality, peace and bliss.
Religion and Science have a great mission and both of them are striving for the same goal of bringing more and more happiness to life. In fact, every piece of knowledge courted and gained is a stepping-stone to a great possibility for happiness in life. Without becoming a competitive force working against Science, the great thinkers of the past, in their own inward methods, tried to solve the problem of sorrow in life and came to the discovery of the inner Self. Their approach was logical and their methods scientific. There is nothing mysterious in religion, nothing stupendous, nothing meaningless; and yet, a modem man of our times, when he thinks in terms of religion, is rather confused. This is true even in the simpler religions of the world and much more, naturally, it is so in Hinduism.
The modem generation would be only too glad to accept a declaration that Hinduism is a dead religion. This is because our observation of Hinduism is rather superficial. A modem critic compares Hinduism to a tree. Seeing a big, giant tree standing, bereft of leaves, flowers and fruits, in the still wintry mom, one is apt to conclude that the tree is dead. But, if we were to approach the tree for a closer observation and if we discover upon the trunk of the tree at least living parasites, we need not then cut down the tree to find out if the sap is still running. Parasites can thrive only on the sap of a living tree. Similarly, when we find that our religion is seemingly dead, yielding no foliage, smiling forth into no blossoms, giving us no fruits and yet, if our religion provides a thriving field for the weeds of superstition, mystery, magic and foul deceit to grow upon its structure, we can conclude that it is not yet dead.
Just as we would revive such a tree by clearing off the parasites and by feeding the tree with proper manure and water, so too we revive Hinduism if we know how to remove the overgrowths of superstition and deceits and then feed the revered old tree with the healthy food of sincerity, faithful alliance and intelligent understanding. Blind faith saves none; a mere blind faith cannot lead us to any enduring philosophy which will serve us as a true basis for a vital, living culture.
One gets confused to the maximum, especially in Hinduism, because never was this sacred religion confined to a fixed revelation. Compared with other religions that are now available in the world, Hinduism cannot be even termed as a religion. Hinduism can be at best classified as a progressive,
ever-growing tradition which has recognised complete freedom - for the individuals to grow as best as they can in a healthy atmosphere of moral life and ethical perfections. The ancient Scientists-of-life seem to have recongnised the fact that by kicking a rose bush we cannot get flowers out of it. But if we allow it to grow fully and freely according to its natural inner calls, within a favourable atmosphere, the flowers blush forth of their own accord.
The religion of a people cannot be fully understood without studying the age and the history of the people who lived it: The great Aryan stock, from across the frontiers of India via Afghanistan and the North-Western Frontier, slowly walked in to occupy the area watered by the Indus, and the Hindu was in fact a name by which the foreigners indicated the society that lived in the Indus Valley. To that extent, we may even consider Hinduism as a name indicating the geographical area where a certain community of people lived their lives, thought their thoughts.
The Aryan-s, with their Vedik culture, in time swept down across the plains to reach the Gangetic Valley. In their procession, they never carried the sword of destruction or the weapons of tyranny. But, on the other hand, they always met other people with love to teach them and in their turn to learn from them. There were in those days, apart from the Dravidian-s, many different tribal people. The Aryan visitors met each one of these cultural units and as time went they absorbed the best they found in the land of their adoption and gave much of their highly developed ideas and philosophy to the then natives of this country.
Thus, in the novel Aryan-way, the Vedik generation tried to solve the problem of the races; not by the modern methods of elimination, destruction or extermination, but by the peaceful methods of absorption and sublimation. When they found that a local God or ideal was too low to contain within it any higher inspiration, they never condemned the people for their concept of God or their methods of worship but by supplying them with a great significance they raised the entire concept into the very pedestal of the Vedik Truths. These are all historical facts accepted, recognised and declared by the great research scholars working on India's ancient civilisation.
What I want to emphasize with these statements is the fact that Hinduism, as it stands today, may be too much of a baffling contradiction for many of those who have reached today to the yajnaasala. We have not come here in the blind faith of the old but we have reached here in an active intellectual admiration, ready to question and never ready to accept any declaration as such simply because it is ancient. Simple faith cannot save us now; therefore, I must request you all not to enter this yajnaasala in an innocent faith that dulls the intellect but reach here in a burning spirit of research and scholarship, in a gushing spirit of seeking and discovering, to know, to question and to understand.
In thus trying to understand the great Rsi-s-s, if we may have to adopt new traditions, we must do so and accommodate the new social demands of our present era. We shall certainly do so and such an act shall not be considered as a blind revolt. The entire history of Hinduism is a story of repeated revolutions wherein, according to the demands of the society, it had been always growing into fresh traditions from time to time and from place to place. In all these differences which are in fact only superficial, there has ever been a chord of unity. What I say is fully upheld by the sheer fact that the Hindu culture is distinctly separate from all others and notably the perfect when compared with that of any other country or people in the world. The readiness to accept the new tradition according to demands of the age is the healthiest sign that guaranteed to Hinduism such a long historical existence.
Even today, when this religion has come to the very low depths of its disastrous decadence, we can say that it still lives, for inspite of the organised and sincere missionary work, supported often officially and always unofficially by the mighty powers of the world, no substantial conversions have taken place in India. This is a fact which even the Christian and Muslim missionaries should accept with regret in their softer moments of honest confessions.
If there is, thus, a compelling charm about Hinduism which binds us to it even when we are quite unconscious of it, what can be the secret of this irresistible unity and sustaining energy? This question has been answered by even the worst critics by their notable and honest observations that Hinduism still holds on to its place in the field of religion simply because its vital truths are so beautifully intertwined with a 'way of living' that the true seekers can, not only in the spiritual field, but also in the material day-to-day life, carve out a greater share of happiness and earn deeper Joy of Perfection. To consider that religion is divorced from life is to hoot high our ignorance of religion. The sapless activities of temple-going, flower-throwing, money-giving or pandita-feeding, which have come to be called religion today, may not have a direct connection with life but if we rightly understand our religion by a direct study of our very Bibles-the Upanisad-s, we shall certainly come to appreciate this great truth.
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