Which Is the Right Path?

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Many people ask themselves the same question: “Which is the right path?” Whenever scholars discuss this question together, they each give a different answer. So what should ordinary people do? Which path should they follow, and which one should they reject? Unable to discriminate between “shreya” (leading to welfare) and “preya” (leading to downfall), they are in a dilemma.

Some philosophies cannot be applied in the world of reality; they have no practical application whatsoever. But when given sophisticated names, they may sound quite attractive. Imagine someone makes the supposition that the River Ganges is made of honey and starts speculating how many factories could be started to process the honey and so on. In the beginning there was a mistake in the fundamental premise that the Ganges is made of honey. There are many such ludicrous theories. Shiva had this to say about them: “Lokavyamohakárakah” That is, these theories misguide and disease the human mind. Only that philosophy which can be applied in the practical sphere deserves to be accepted. Everything else should be rejected. But how can common people recognize such a philosophy? A tough problem indeed. A similar, almost insurmountable problem is to know what to do and what not to do in the social sphere. A number of reputed scholars and illustrious poets have expressed their feelings about this, but none of them are prepared to accept the viewpoints of their colleagues. As all are equally expert in the field of argumentation, what is one to do? It is quite a dilemma! Once, in answer to the common question, “Which is the right path”? a great poet said:

Shrutayo vibhinnáh smrtayo vibhinnáh
Naeka muniryasya mataḿ na bhinnam.

Dharmasya tattvama nihitama guháyám,
Mahájano yena gatah sah panthá.

All the religious scriptures differ from one another. Everyone claims to have had a revelation of God. What a dilemma! If these were all true cosmic revelations, why should there be so many differences of opinion? Some advise that devotees should meditate facing the west whereas others insist they should sit facing the east. These are confusing propositions. How can the same person meditate facing both east and west at the same time? Some scriptures say that the labour class (shudras) do not have the right to do spiritual practice, some claim that women don’t have that right and others stipulate that homeless people don’t have that right either. And yet some scriptures say that dharma should be as easily accessible to all as light and air. Which should be accepted and which should be rejected? Whom should one eulogize and whom should one criticize What should be done in the midst of such confusion? In fact, the scriptures themselves are confusing, as indeed are the social treatises. At one time the most important treatise was the “Paráshara Saḿhitá”, then came the “Nárada Saḿhitá” and then came the theory of Karl Marx. There are innumerable differences between the various social treatises and books of ethics. “Shruti shástra” means “religious code” and “niiti shástra” means “social code”. The social code is also called “smrti shástra”. The socio-economic system, or the system of distribution of wealth, came within the scope of “samája shástra” or social code. One such social code says, “Try to acquire as much wealth as you can with the help of your intelligence and analytic brain.” Another says, “Wealth should be divided in equal proportions”, whereas yet another says, “Distribute wealth according to necessity.” According to other theories, however, wealth should be distributed according to individual need; that is, one need not give the same amount to everyone. So many people, so many minds. In this situation, what should the common people do?

In order to find the answers, many people rush to the munis (saints) and rśis (sages). But there is a similar problem: who is a muni? The word “muni” means a person who always ideates on Iishvara, whose mind is in constant touch with Him. In the practical field, however, we notice that the more one is endowed with cunning and duplicity, the greater one is revered as a muni. It is also noticed that no one muni ever agrees with another – there are as many opinions as there are munis. So what should the common people do? Whom should they accept and whom should they reject? What is the wisest thing to do? The answer is as follows;

Dharmasya tattvaḿ nihitaḿ guháyám

The real spirit of dharma lies embedded in the innermost cavity of the human mind. Each and every object has its inherent noumenal cause. The banyan seed, for example, is the noumenal cause of the large banyan tree which will emerge out of it. Similarly, dharma has its basic root. Where does that root lie? It lies in Parama Puruśa. One who worships numerable deities has undoubtedly forsaken Parama Puruśa. This is not dharma – we should give it some other name.

Some religions decree that widows will have to undergo penance and accept certain rules and follow certain abstinences. They are not supposed to eat certain types of food, for example. All these impositions have nothing to do with Parama Puruśa and are definitely not dharmic. So what does common sense tell us? It tells us that each and every human being is a child of Parama Puruśa. The unmarried young girl and the widow are both His children. Do you think Parama Puruśa likes the idea that the widow should wear coarse cloth? Of course He doesn’t. Rather, He is happy when He sees that everyone is well dressed, everyone is happy, everyone is singing, dancing and chatting in a joyful mood. If widows are persecuted, it is a negation of dharma. What is the real spirit of dharma? One is to approach Parama Puruśa and assimilate His innermost bháva (idea). That is the real spirit.

Dharmasya tattvaḿ nihitaḿ guháyám

In each and every human being there is a sense of existence in the innermost cavity of the mind. All the worldly clashes and struggles, all the subtle ideas and thoughts centre around this existential “I” feeling. “Because he has insulted me I seek revenge.” Everything centres around this “I” feeling. “I am good, but he’s bad.” It is all the result of that small “I”. If the small “I” is good, the world is automatically good. The part of the mind in which the “I” resides is called “guhá”. Here “guhá” does not mean a mountain cave but that innermost cavity within the human mind where the seer “I” lies hidden. And this seeing or witnessing entity of the small “I” is the very root of dharma. Who lies hidden in that innermost cavity of the existential “I” feeling? Parama Puruśa, of course. All the entities of this world are sheltered in Him.

So the differences of opinion between various scriptures are of no concern for you. You should only be concerned about the particular path which will take you to Parama Puruśa, and move along it. There is no time to waste debating which scripture should be accepted and which one should be rejected. You have come to the world with a limited amount of time – don’t waste it on such trivial controversies.

We are all the progeny of Parama Puruśa. He is creating each and every thing. There is no need to worry about the man-made distinctions between tall and short, black and white, male and female. Identify your mind with the Cosmic Mind and see whether that pleases Parama Puruśa or not. Do whatever pleases Him.

No father wants to see his child die of starvation or one of his children eating or accumulating more than required. You will have to develop the economic sphere to ensure that these things will never happen. In social life no father would wish to see his widowed daughter forced to dress in an austere fashion, persecuted socially, or debarred from attending social functions. You must not support these things. Rather, you must provide equal opportunities for all.

Parents hate to see their children weep. If they do, they take them on their lap and comfort them with love and affection until their tears stop. You will have to build a society in which no one is forced to weep, where everyone smiles joyfully all the time and gets ample scope for laughter. Seeing such mirth and merriment, Parama Puruśa will feel immensely pleased. By giving joy to Parama Puruśa you will feel even more joyful and will feel His close proximity. This is the actual social code. And the actual spiritual code is the one that helps humans move towards Parama Puruśa. Under no circumstances should one create unnecessary controversies. The social code aims at bringing a broad smile to the faces of the progeny of Parama Puruśa. You should all move along this path – you are sure to meet with success.

5 November 1978 morning, Kalikata