By associating with saintly beings, we can practice the 4 principles of religion — austerity, cleanliness, mercy and truthfulness, writes Radhanath Swami
The world is full of uncertainties and the fact is that one can never change the condition of this universe. However, we can make arrangements to change ourselves in order to adjust with the environment and learn to live harmoniously. We must as far as possible create an environment which is conducive to peace, prosperity and happiness among the people. Therefore, great Saints the world over have propagated the need for self-realisation among the people.
The question that haunts our mind is how to bring about peace in this world? Some people argue that we can do so through religion. However, it is not so. In fact, most of the violence which occurs in this world, today, has surfaced in the form of ‘terrorism’ which has sprung up from the issues of religion. The terrorists wrongly surmise that by resorting to terrorism they can save their religion. However, this is far from the truth. No religion preaches violence but only propagates peace in the universe. Unfortunately, this has been misinterpreted by terrorists to suit their Interests.
Take the case of the great Mahabharata war which occurred more than 5,000 years ago between Kaurvas and Pandavas. The war was based on certain principles or rules which were agreed upon by both the sides. There was no terrorism involved in that Great War. Only men fought in the war. Women, children and old people did not participate in the battle. The armies fought with equal strength and with pride and honour with a firm conviction that whoever wins will get the kingdom of Hastinapur to rule and whoever dies shall go to heaven. As compared to this battle, terrorism, which has surfaced today, does not spare people even women, children and the old. This is the bitter truth that we are facing today.
Terrorism knows no religion. Terrorists, today, blow up airplanes; plant bombs in buses and public transport vehicles, in cinema houses or shopping Malls — all this in the name of religion although the violence has nothing to do with the religion.
Srimad Bhagavatam describes that religion is based on four principles. They are called the four pillars of religion. They are Austerity, Cleanliness, Mercy, and Truthfulness. Whether you call yourself a Hindu, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Christian it is not so important. The question is how we are developing our love for God through the process of following these four principles of religion? By following these four principles we can realise our eternal relationship with the Supreme creator and then we can look harmoniously in any condition that the environment has placed before us and remain peaceful and contribute to the wellbeing of the society.
Let us consider the first principle of ‘Austerity’ which means to be willing to accept inconvenience for the purification of one’s heart and in the service of God and in the service of humanity.
Austerity means to be willing to accept inconvenience, sacrifice and even pain, for the purpose of purifying our consciousness and to reject things which are unfavorable for the purification of our heart, whether we like it or not. Human life is meant for sacrifice.
Austerity means making priority in your time. How much time are you dedicating to purify your heart for God? How much time you are allocating to your business, to your family? You have to balance everything, so your life is full both materially and spiritually, that has to be balanced. Sacrificing time everyday with a view to purifying the heart, through meditation, Yantra, and reading religious scriptures is the greatest austerity.
The second principle of religion is Cleanliness. It is said that Cleanliness is next to Godliness. Cleanliness means for the body and the mind. For cleanliness of the body, we should bathe at least once a day. Because when the body becomes dirty, the environment also becomes dirty and it is very difficult for the mind to remain clean.
The next principle of religion is ‘Mercy’. How to be merciful within this society? Again every religion of the world teaches us that we must be merciful and show mercy to all. It is sacrifice, it is Austerity. The non-violence must be based on ‘faith in God’. Faith can move mountains, We must have faith.
The fourth principle of religion is truthfulness. What is the truth? The answer lies in simply not telling lies in our daily affairs. We should be honest and straight forward in all our dealings in this world That is called Morality. Lord Krishna says in Bhagavad Gita that the definition of truth is to know that all living beings are part of me and they are in me and they are mine. The truth is that we are part of God. That everything is the property of God. Unless we know the truth, unless we understand the truth how can we be truthful.
By understanding and pursuing Truth, we can see how everything within our environment is perfect. How everything is the loving grace of God. Not simple to intellectual understanding, but we can experience from the core of our heart the God’s expression of love in every condition of life. This is the real peace. This is not intangible, it is not something impossible. It is as close as your own soul. We are running in every other direction to find pleasure and peace. We simply have to redirect our priorities in life towards our soul and towards our service of the god. By associating with saintly persons, by hearing the truth, we will learn how to practice these four principles of religion, austerity, cleanliness, mercy, and truthfulness.
The writer is a spiritual guru at the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)