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Need for Scriptures and Adepts
In spite of modern scientific advances, vast improvements in living conditions, longer life expectancies, reduced hardships, and many avenues of amusement; there is a lack of peace in the minds of people. Man, both the common man and the man in affluent society, finds it very difficult to keep a serene mind now more than ever before. What are the factors that make it very difficult for a man to keep serenity? The two main factors that don't allow us to keep serenity are:
- Discouraging news is often heard
- Frequent, subtle, treacherous, insidious, and distracting fears
Because of this, a situation has been created in which modern man feels insecure, without inward peace and outward serenity. What is the result of this? Man's emotional disequilibrium has grown up and has resulted in mental instability with alarming features. What is the ultimate effect of this on man? In modern man's mind and life, there are:
- Neurotic excitements and pathological turmoils
- Vehement passions and dangerous indecisions
As such man is unable to decide what to do and what not to do.
Beneath the talk of every man a dismal undertone can be observed. Due to the alternating rise and fall of hopes, man is worried too much as to 'What will happen? What will be the outcome?.' These are the long drawn suspenses with anxious expectations. Man is craving for help and strength from his counterpart but he is unable to get it. Man's faith has been replaced by fear and his confidence has been shuttled to and fro by complexity. Foreboding and bewilderment have occupied his mind.
Almost all people are in such a crisis, confused and not knowing what to do. In addition to this, the staggering headlines of newspapers daily bewilder him with paralyzing uncertainties. Man is unable to plan his future and unable to decide the course of action. He does not know how to deal with doubts infecting his conscienceness or how to overcome the obstacles that interfere with his lawful activities and conduct. Above all he is unable to judge what is lawfulness and what is the correct way of living.
While many people are not bothered by this and are indulging in worldly pleasures and enjoyments, the vast majority are in a bewildered and confused state. Many of them are in search of a solution and go to temples, churches, mosques, etc to try and find peace of mind. Many others go in search of gurus, saints, seers, and astrologers. As a result, many pseudo-gurus and pseudo-astrologers have gained popularity.
What is the way out of this vexing problem? How can one get peace of mind? What is the right mode of conduct? What is the right mode of living? How can one live safely in this world? There are two answers:
- Avail oneself to the guidance of spiritual teachings from the Scriptures.
- Heed the advice of the Adepts or Avatars.
Let us analyze the above two in detail. First, we must realize that life is a continuous struggle. Man struggles to rise above nature. Only when he reaches the supreme goal of life does he become free from the struggle. The essential guides for success in this struggle are the Scriptures.
Scriptures are sacred books or writings, also called Sastras. In general, by Holy Scripture we mean the Hindu Vedas, the Muslim Koran, the Christian Bible, the Buddhist Tripitaka, etc. The word Veda indicates a vast body of sacred and esoteric knowledge concerning the eternal spiritual values revealed to the great ones called Rishis in the depths of their meditation. The Hindu religious tradition has accorded the Vedas the highest place in its canonical literature. As such, the Vedas are revered as the basic scriptures of Hinduism.
Basically, scriptures are the records of higher experiences, or rather attempts by illuminated souls to communicate their experiences to future generations. These experiences were perceived by Rishis through the subtle power arising from yoga. Hence, the scriptures are the authority in ascertaining what ought to be done, and what ought not to be done. Having known what has been prescribed in the scriptures, one should act in that manner.
Rig Veda is the oldest scripture and has a preeminent place in the Vedic literature. The other Vedas are Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, and Atharvana Veda. For centuries, the Vedas have been handed down to posterity by oral traditions. They passed orally, with spiritual authority, from master to pupil and are not actually books but are the accumulated treasury of revealed spiritual knowledge.
Hindu Sastra or Hindu Veda means:
- Brahma Sutra or Vedantha Sutra of Badarayana
- The Upanisads and Purana Texts
- The Bhagavad Gita
These are the three basic Scriptures and are collectively known as Prasthana-Traya. Vedanta is generally identified with Upanisads (Suruthi or Sruti) and Purana texts (Sumurthi or Smriti). Srutis are direct revelations. They are from the highest level of conscienceness from which the Rishis speak and it requires a tremendous transcendental struggle on our part to gain access. Smritis are the Scriptures of deep thinkers called Munis or Munivars and are based upon the truth realized by them or by other seers. They are easy to understand and try to guide us in the conduct of our daily life.
The principles and teachings that stemmed from the seer's experience became the subject matter of the Upanisads. The term philosophy, with respect to Upanisadic literature, means the thought-construction based on the various deep spiritual realizations of the seers. The Upanisads contain the quintessence of the other Vedas, namely the Brahma Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita and all other works that follow the spirit of these two. The three well-known Upanisads are the Prasna, the Mundaka, and the Mandukya. Therefore, in conclusion, the Scriptures are necessary to reveal to us:
- Who we are.
- Where we have to go.
- How many ways there are to achieve this goal.
- Which way is suitable for us.
- What is the highest level of spiritual life.
- What are the spiritual disciplines to be followed to attain the goal.
Coming back to our point, availing oneself to the guidance of spiritual teachings from the Scriptures is very difficult to the modern man due to the following reasons:
- Modern man finds no time to go through the Scriptures with a calm mind. Moreover, it is necessary to classify the Scriptures, so that we can utilize them properly and understand their message in the proper context.
- Intellectual understanding and actual experience are quite different things.
- One who desires to follow the Scriptures should have first cleansed his mind by the proper study of the Vedas and the performance of various Karmas (rituals) and Upasanas (meditations) prescribed in them.
- The Vedas, considered apauruseys, that is, not man-made but revealed to man, are rather difficult to understand due to the archaic form of language and terminology.
- There is another great problem with these Scriptures. Their writings are very difficult to follow. To understand Vedic literature we need Bhasyas or commentaries. There have been a galaxy of commentators over the centuries. These commentaries are contaminated by personal projections of the commentators.
- Scriptures should be studied with the aim of realizing one's real nature in the depths of one's consciousness. Otherwise, they will be reduced to a mere collection of words. In that case, Scriptures cease to be an aid and also become a stumbling block.
Now let us analyze the second choice, that is, heading the advice of the adepts or avatars. If a person is unable to undertake the study of the Scriptures himself, he should seek the guidance of a person who has imbibed its spirit. Guru does not mean merely a man well versed in the letter; but one who is practicing what he preaches. The difficulties experienced in following the teachings of the gurus, the living Scriptures, are as follows:
- The teachings of the Gurus are impossible to implement.
- It takes a long time for results to materialize depending upon the effort put in. People wanting quick results are easily disappointed.
- The teachings of the spiritual adepts handed down to us today do not represent the correct message of the founders.
- What the adepts preached was applicable only to the people of the particular time when they existed.
- Many pseudo-Gurus have gained popularity and they mislead people and exploit them for furthering their own interest.
We need not despair because of the above difficulties. This is because adepts appear on this Earth from time to time at different places as messengers of God to guide the masses. Buddha, Mahavira, Jesus, Mohammed, Guru Nanak are such adepts. When the time warrants, the Godhead Adhiparasakthi Herself takes an Avatar and comes down to this world to preach the correct code of conduct. Now in the following chapter let us examine what is an Avatar?
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