Choose religiousness rather than religion || Acharya Prashant (2014)

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Question: Is Hinduism a religion that allows and accepts non-believers too?

Answer: If you are accepting non-believers, then you also have to accept that Muslims and Christians are also Hindus. So, this is obviously a non-question. If you are saying that Hinduism accepts both believers and non-believers, then believers and non-believers is the sum total of everybody. You are saying, ‘A and A compliment’, and that is the universal set. Then you are saying that everybody is a Hindu.

No religion can accept non-believers. So, you have to believe in something, yes you can have people who believe differently, that much can be accepted, but you cannot accept non-believers. A non-believer cannot belong to a religion. Do you know who is a non-believer? The one who lives in the aatman. The mind lives in beliefs, the non-believer lives somewhere else. For him, no Hinduism and no other -ism applies.

A spiritual man does not belong to a religion. And that is the reason why what you are calling as ‘Hinduism’ is actually very-very little of a religion, if you talk of the essence of Hinduism. The more you call Hinduism, a religion, the more you are destroying the real thing. So, Hinduism is great only as long as it is not a religion. The moment you say, ‘Hindu-ism is great’, it’s gone, finished.

What happened in India was not a religious activity, not in the sense that Christianity and Islam are religions. Hinduism is not at all a religion in the sense Christianity and Islam are religions. The Upanishads do not propagate a religion at all. Are you getting it? How can you follow a religion after reading Ribhu Gita? Gone, finished! There is no question of religion. Yes, if this religion-lessness can be called ‘Hinduism’, then it is alright. Then it is alright.

So, who is a real Hindu? The one who is religionless. A real Hindu does not have any religion. To go beyond all religions is to be a Hindu. So, there are religions who are on one plane, and then there is Sanaatan Dharma, which is another dimension. It is Sanaatan Dharma; the eternal religiousness. It is not a religion. So, it is wonderful that you are a Sanaatani, you are religionless.

What has happened is that because there are other religions, so the so-called Hindus also find it necessary to find what is their religion. ‘Everybody has a religion, what is myreligion?’ Son, you actually don’t have a religion, and that’s such good news. You have been born and brought up in the shadow of the saints, and that is why you do not have a religion. It’s like everybody is walking on the crutches and the healthy child asks, ‘Where are my crutches?’ You don’t have crutches, son. You don’t have crutches.

An incident happened to me once in school, I was in either class one or two then. My class teacher came to the class and scolded everybody for not paying the fees on time. She said that a penalty of ten rupees is being levied on everybody, and everybody has to bring ten rupees tomorrow. I went home and asked my parents to give me ten rupees. My parents kept on telling me that my fees has been paid.

(Everyone laughs)

I insisted that everybody has to pay the penalty, so they must give me ten rupees. Next day I went to school with ten rupees but the money was not taken. I said that everybody has to pay the penalty, so I must also pay the penalty. In the similar manner, ‘Everybody has a religion, so I must also have a religion.’

You don’t have a religion, yours is Sanaatan Dharma. You are religionless.

‘Heretics’, ‘apostates’, ‘believers’, ‘non-believers’, how does it matter? These terms are relevant only when there is a frozen pattern of thought, which you call as ‘religion’. In the free and open expanse of mind, which you call as spirituality, there is no need for any religion.

Sanaatan Dharma is awakened intelligence, also called ‘Swadharma’. You know what you must do at any point, because you know who you are, that is Swadharma. Now, you don’t need a dharma because you know Swadharma, that is Sanaatan dharma; Swadharma. That is what Krishna has talked about.

When Krishna says, ‘Swadharme nidhanam shreya (स्वधर्मे निधनं श्रेयः)’, he is not talking about Hinduism. He is talking about the action of intelligence.

Listener 1: What is the literal meaning of this word ‘Sanaatan’?

Speaker: Sanaatan means eternal. Not really eternal, beyond time, timeless.

When the Christian missionaries came to India, they had few experiences with the tribal people. The tribals are simple people, nature worshipers. The missionaries lured the tribals and asked them to convert and become Christians. The tribal people agreed and converted to Christianity. After they were baptized, they were asked to visit the Church. You know what these tribals did? They put tilak on the forehead of the statue of Jesus and sang bhajans for Jesus.

(Everyone laughs)

They have not converted at all. So, all the other deities were there and they now they had also put Jesus there. It is impossible to convert them, because they don’t have a religion.

When you have a religion then you can be converted to another religion, but once you start living in Swadharma, the Sanaatan Dharma, it is impossible to convert you. ‘You want to change my name, you can do that. You want to give me a cross to wear, I will wear it. Does it change my essence? No. I live in my essence.’ But that does not mean that everybody who converts retains his essence. You must have it first of all, in order to retain it.

Sanaatan Dharma is exactly the pathless land that Krishnamurti had talked about. Remember him saying, ‘Truth is a pathless land’? That is exactly what came up in India; a pathless land, an open expanse of the vast inner sky, the sky of the aatman. And that is not a religion.

Listener 2: But this too has been co-opted.

Speaker: That you can do.

Upanishads, Buddha, Mahavir, they do not give you religions, they give you freedom. Later on you can make it a religion or whatever you want to do. They liberate you from religion. A Buddha does not give you religion, he liberates you from religion, and that liberation is called ‘religiousness’.

Liberation from religion is religiousness.xmgfx

In fact, Buddha also says, ‘Heenam dhammam na sevaye (Do not follow the inferior religion).’ What is the inferior religion? A religion not coming from one’s intelligence.

Listener 3: The answers you get here in India, you can never get in the west. That is why people in the west end up committing suicide.

Speaker: The west is not a place, the west is a state of mind. We have suicides here in India also. They are all westerners. They might be living in small towns, but they are westerners. India has very few Indians. There are more westerners in India than in the west.

Anybody who thinks of matter as the ultimate reality, cannot be an Indian. India is not a place, India is a state of mind. Anybody who keeps thinking of matter, cannot be an Indian. Just by living in Bihar or Bangalore, you do not become an Indian.

There is a book by Osho titled: India – my love. Here he is not referring to the political or the geographical India. Here he is talking of the essence that is India, the state of mind that is India, and that is not limited to a geographical boundary. Getting it?

– Excerpts from Clarity Session held at Advait Sthal.

Edited for clarity.

Watch the session at: Choose religiousness rather than religion

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