Once I was sitting in the midst of an assembly of religious people. We were engrossed in a discussion relating to spiritual matters. In that very context I asked a religious man, “Do you feel the necessity of eating food!” He looked at me in wonder. He was apparently surprised at the quection asked.
“A man eats because he feels hungry. I fail to understand the purpose of your question. What do you mean by it?” he asked me courteously.
In the next moment I asked him whether he ever felt impelled by a hunger for religion just as he always feels hungry for food. He was perplexed. He did not know what reply he should give. So he asked me to explain it.
I said, “Food is the demand of our body but it is not so in the case of religion. Hence the body does not feel the need of religion just as it feels the need of food.”
“Then, why should we at all practise religion? It’s no use doing a thing we do not need in life,” said the man. When I heard this question I felt as if I had shaken his faith. But I do not think that there is any thing wrong in it. In order to unravel faith it is necessary for us to dispel the darkness that shrouds it.
“Is performing religious acts the need of mind?” asked the man hesitatingly.
“Mind is the centre of desires and fancies, Religion enjoins on us to exercise control over our desires and ambitions. Then how can mind be expected to take interest in acts of religion” I asked.
“Do you want to suggest that the fact why religion is needed is not yet known? Do we practise religious life without knowing anything about it?” he asked.
“No, I do not mean that. Inspiration of religion comes from within. It is society that needs religion. It cannot remain healthy without the manifestation of virtues like purity of acts in life, truthfulness, honesty and balance of mind,
Every individual is in need of religion. Can a man lead a peaceful life without practising religion in a world vitiated by conflicts, competitions, discord, tyrrany and deceit? One cannot propound such a one-sided view as well that the body is not in need of religion. As irreligious man cannot remain healthy, how can a man who is unable to control his desires and senses be expected to preserve his health?” I asked.
“Now I am convinced that religion is a must in the life of a man,” said the man.
I looked at his face. I felt that I had succeeded in revealing his faith. Our discussion was about to come to an end when all of a sudden another man stood up. He seemed highly educated and was gifted with a good power of reasoning. He made the discussion lively by adding some new dimensions to it. In a tone of curiosity, he asked, “Is there any compatibility between materialism and spiritualism?”
“If consciousness and body can conform to each other, how can I say that materialism and spiritualism do not do so?” I replied.
“If there is any harmony between the two, why are you opposed to materialism?” he asked.
“In my opinion religious people are not opposed to materialistic development but the thing that they are opposed to is its one-sided development.
“As the balanced development of materialism and spiritualism is the need of society, there is no reason why materialistic development should be opposed?” I said.
“When the aim of a religious man is spiritual development, what do you think will induce him to long for materialistic development? How is spiritual development necessary for one whose sole objective is materialistic development?” he asked.
“Spiritual development aims at unfolding the intrinsic traits of a human being. It does not fulfil materialistic need. Materialistic needs my be realized if materialistic wealth is developed. Hence every social being longs for materialistic development. Materialistic development is the development of worldy objects. It does not help us to develop our inner virtues which can be promoted only when one makes spiritual endeavours. Hence how can we refuse to acknowledge its need for society? I would like to illustrate it further with the help of a parable:
There lived two men in a village named Ramoo and Shyamoo. Ramoo was rich while Shyamoo was an ordinary man. As both of them held diverse views on many matters, their ways also differed. Years passed but there could be no reconciliation between the two. Once Shyamoo was involved in an offence and was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment. Hardly two months had elapsed when Ramoo also fell victim to an offence relating to his business. He was also sentenced to one year’s rigorous imprisonment. In olden days a man who had been sentenced to rigorous imprisonment had to wear a wooden fetter in his legs. Such a wooden fetter had two holes and it was shared by two prisoners together. It so happened that the prisoner who had been put together with Shyamoo in the same wooden fetter was released on completion of the term of his punishment. Shyamco now needed another partner to share his wooden fetter. Incidentally Ramoo was chosen to share it. Shyamoo depended on the ordinary meal supplied by the jail authorities where Ramoo ate special meal brought from his home,
Shyamoo said, “Here you cannot eat good food all alone. You will have to share it with me.” Ramoo paid no heed to what he said and ate his food alone. Their fortune was chained together in the same wooden fetter. This fact was ignored by Ramoo. When he had eaten his food, he felt the need of walking a little. Ramoo said to Shyamoo, “Let us walk a little.” Shyamoo said, “I cannot walk as I am hungry.” Now Shyamoo began to put obstacles in the path of Ramoo whenever he expressed a desire to do something. Thus a day or two passed in this manner. Ramoo felt annoyed and was at last compelled to have a compromise with Shyamoo. Now whatever he got from home, he gave half of it to Shyamoo. Once the members of his family observed it and opposed it. Ramoo said “Now my fortune is linked with that of Shyamoo. I do not love him nor do I agree with him on many matters but let me know if I can live without having any agreement with him in the present situation. The agreement between spiritualism and materialism may be compared to the one reached between Ramoo and Shyamoo.
Our body and consciousness follow two opposite directions. Their path is not common. The fortune of consciousness is linked with that of the body. In a situation such as this, there isn’t any other alternative. As a matter of fact religion is not opposed to worldly objects. Opposition to materialistic objects stems from our mistaking that agreement for reality and our consequent attachment to these objects.
In the course of my discussion, I displayed that I was neither inclined towards materialism nor towards spiritualism. I had accepted the reality of both of them. My neutrality impressed the questioner and we found ourselves identical in our views.