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Pujya Dr. K.C. Varadachari - Volume -10



Modern Psychology has taken upon itself to analyse the complex sentiment of Religion. Professor William James in his classical work on the Varieties of Religious experience tried to establish psychological tests by which one could determine what constitutes religious experience.

We have to distinguish between religion as an institution and religious experience. The religious experience has been shown to be a kind of sense of the wonder and numinous and significant of the cosmic as against the individual and the sense-universe and so on. Many have followed this Jimsian track.

The Psycho-analysts headed by Freud have analyzed the religious experience and declared that it is

i. a craving for protection and power. The infant’s feeling of importance at the beginning gradually is given up and thanks to this need to be helped and protected by the environment and is sought to be regained by increasing one’s own power either through the parents or some entity hypostatized.
ii. It is also seen to be an attempt to get control over the sensory world directly but when this is impossible by alternative means which are psychological.
iii. Religion itself is a great ‘Illusion’ as it posits the existence of a spiritual being who loves all – a father-complex or image erected into a higher reality. It is seen that God is a father surrogate’ and the brotherhood among all is another imitational pattern.


This Freudian analysis is really materialistic though nonetheless valuable. Religion satisfies in one sense man’s desire for knowledge and competes with science. As science advances perhaps we might give up the illusions of religion, as clothed in the myths etc., which could be psycho-analytically explained.

According to Jung who was much more concerned with the metaphysical analysis or meta-psychology God is an archetype. All religions are different methods of stating the same idea of God as a symbol of the psychic energy which carries a tremendous load of libido. In fact this leads to the concept of the omnipotence of God. Though this archetypal libido operates through the unconscious almost everywhere yet it clear that it controls and directs all conscious life and movements everywhere almost in an identical manner. The universality of myths and dreams is an evidence of this singleness of God-libido.

If it is asked how far their studies helped clarification of religious experiences all that we can say is with Sri Aurobindo – they have been walking in the dim-lit worlds of the shadows.

Eric Fromm and others interested in the study of human nature proceeded to consider the religious aspect as part of human history. History has been the source of factual data even as the myths have been the source of factual data for Carl Jung. Fromm has transferred the ‘focal point from within the individual to the external objective conditions. The behaviour of individuals is shaped accordingly by their society and the society is moulded by objective conditions. The environmental approach to the study of human and individual problems may be acclaimed as a major step forward for science (which objectifies and seeks objectification as the norm of understanding).

That we have not progressed very far in this methodology in respect of the proper understanding of religion is self-evident. If we think that religion could be understood in terms of the institutions of religion – the priest craft, the fire-altar constructions, the incantations, the prescribing of taboos and the adoption of totems, or even the formation of mystery cults, dances and music and so on, then a study in detail of all the religious institutions from the primitive to the higher religions would provide invaluable data. The Golden Bough and the other studies do provide a much needed data. But that is not the spirit of religion. These are exteriorizations or improvisations of the inward welling up of certain sentiments and ideations, which are in fact inseparable.

The religious institutions such as the Temple in India stand for a certain idea-the house of God. The Church is a place where one could pray alone and in company to that Highest Being who is everywhere. Here there is no icon (pratima) to give a visual representation of the invisible and omnipervasive being. The Mosque again resents the iconisation of God who is beyond all our sense-grasps. But what are the lower religions otherwise? May be they want a representation and idealization of the best and that which has helped them – or contrariwise that which has injured them and the feelings of guilt and fear and so on. The development of sacrifices – the most beastly and most bloody – have their source not so much in the sadistic impulse or some such libidinous impulse but in the need of give up oneself to the highest in all one’s parts, property etc. – and the quantification of the ‘giving away or up’ has led to ferocious dimensions. Religion depraved in this manner had to emphasize the quality rather than the quantity – the psychological as against the objective or external offering. The external charity is to be measured only by the internal charity – not vice versa. The pull towards externality however has not even today ceased to operate. The Religion is not so much in grandeur of structures or rituals and sacrifices – festivals but in the ability of each individual to arrive at that direct experience of the Ultimate.

The religion of our temples has shown itself in the large formulation of the basic external symbolic form of the structure – its rising towers. It is usually said that the structure of the temple is based on the concept of correspondence between the human body and the house of God: But this would be to over-simplify the concept of the temple. The temple corresponds to the entire Universe – or creation which has grown round the central force which has constructed it. The central force of the temple is the innermost sanctum sanctorum – where the deity is installed. The several enclosures are said to represent the several sheaths – the ananda, vijnana, manas, prana and anna – five: some have seven prakaras – the symbol includes the three – fire, water and prithvi under anna. The towers (Gopuram) represent the ascending worlds – bhuh, bhuvah, svah – or seven adding the mahah, janah, tapas and satyam. So the symbolic nature of the temple seems to have been well-known to the architects of the temples. There is bound to be large amount of spiritual heritage in this symbolic temple architecture.

The icons themselves are designed to represent the forces of the cosmic order which one would like to worship or invoke. The attempt to objectify the inward powers also held as cosmic powers has led to many speculations and innovations and inventions. There are large differences between the Hindu and the Mahayana myths and types of worship but when we penetrate behind them we have a substantial unity of symbol. It is so as in the case of Jaina temple psychology.

There is a large amount of agreement in the matter of the goals of the three religious movements, Hindu (Vaisnava, Saiva, Sakta), Buddhist and Jaina: the goal is liberation - the means are also similar – the necessity of total abnegation of world-values: the first emphasizes a life of disciplined God-dedicated renunciation and enjoyment: the second emphasizes the dharma-dedicated renounced life; the third emphasizes the total dedication to purification of oneself till the least particle of karma-matter (pudgala) is thrown out and one becomes a jina – a free spirit without any bondage any longer.

Religion means more the discipline of one’s life – a discipline that exalts the virtues of dedication to the ultimate transcendental freedom and seeks within the lifetime given to man to direct all energies to that goal.

This is the psychology of religious transcendental idealism. It does not make renunciation and end in itself but as a means to the attainment of that union with the life of the Universe and beyond that. This does not mean any pessimism, It on the contrary means a great deal of optimism. Pessimism is the condition that develops when one feels that his goals or ideals cannot be realized at all. That this world cannot be the world in which the highest can be realized is for most a bare statement of fact. It is a law of nature itself. To seek immortality in the mortal world would be an idle dream if mortality is a law of this world. This might be denied and a philosophy of basic transformation of the world would or may entail the abrogation of the law of mortality. Some thinkers like Sri Aurobindo hope for this. But this world would have become some other world.

Again it is not pessimism to affirm transcendence over this world alone will lead to absolute Bliss. The attempt to establish a kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven, would men the abolition of the earth itself. But that notwithstanding, the social modifications of the earth society or community so as to bring about a new set of codes of life or laws are not beyond the earth consciousness at all. The aim of a godly world – a religion-directed world had been attempted. The temple-centred cultures all over the world have shown certain definite cultural developments. They have greatly modified the minds of men, weaned them away from the pure instinct-driven lives or ritual conditioned consciousness. But the new habits of mind also tended to lose consciousness and conscience and this led to the woodenness of ritual mortality, religious mortality and myth mortality and symbolic mores.

The psychology of self-transcendence is understandable – though perhaps it would be meaningless if it means the giving up of oneself for the sake of another – but this could be shown to be the newly discovered self of one: The basic religious sentiments are not static but dynamic revealing the great attractiveness of the ideals of Transcendence of the self. These ideals or goals are not immanent and cannot be discovered immanently. So much can be stated. The objective manifestations of religion are means and are symbolic. These symbols are in a sense universal and stand for objects of the spiritual mind not of the senses and even the ego-centered desires and needs.

It is in this that lies the secret differentium between the human ideals and the religions are transcendental ideals. In the modern world there is a tendency to claim that transcendental aspirations are also human and are the human whereas the immanental aspirations are lower than the human. This is due to the happy shifting of the co-ordinates of reference. But not all agree to this shifting. In a world of different levels of biological and moral development the psychic claims and aims are bound to the variant.

In the modern world what are the most important needs which could be called religious or spiritual?

1. It is claimed that Santi or Peace is the real goal of all people.

Peace or Santi is said to be granted by religious life. It comes about as a result of a contact with God in contemplation. It may come about in devotional practices. It is said to come about during the performance of good deeds.

The peace that passeth understanding, which noting can disturb is the gift of God or the Dharma.

What is behind this need for peace which this god-union can grant? We have to realize that Peace is the cessation of all activities – both the internal and the external or the quelling down of the movements of the mind which either is engaged with external objects or internal memory. This comes about through strenuous practice.

From having the peace of the individual we move towards peace outside in the world. Peace in the outer world is something very different – it is the harmonizing of all diverse movements – bringing about the reign of law and order. The external conditions of the world have quite an effect on man’s life. Indeed most of man’s life is devoted to acting and reacting in the environment. Peace is something that does not happen. We have a negative definition of peace: peace is absence of war or conflict. It may mean absence of difference of opinion or ideals. People go searching for peace to all places of religion: they go from one sacred place to another; from one saint to another saint; this continuous movements for the sake of inward peace may be considered to be a phenomenon peculiarly Indian, for men do not go here for learning, for sight-seeing or for any other purpose but for the purpose of getting peace – santi. A certain quiet is got but it soon passes away. Is it the mind that is the cause of this restlessness? The ancient statement – mana eva Manusyanam karanam bandha moksayoh; the mind is the cause of both man’s bondage and liberation; bondage when it moves outward to objects of sense, liberation, in desisting from them. Mental peace is said to be arrived at by cultivating thoughtlessness or non-ideation of any kind. Thus impressions of objects and their memories float constantly on the mind or rise and fall like waves in the mind- the two analogies implicit are that it is a background and that it is a sea or lake.

Peace of this kind is the usual thing that one gets or at least is said to be felt when one goes to sacred places or the sacredness of the place or person is judged by this test.

This linking up of man’s unhappiness or restlessness or non-peace with the mind is one important discovery.

This mind is said to operate through the sense – organs and the motor-organs and also of the pleasure and pain and memory of these impressions. Taken altogether with the eleven the mind is also engaged with the subtle sense-material (tanmatras) and the gross material substances both composing the body and the outer world. It is not necessary to make Mind an all creator but its activities are varied and integrating. One’s experience (ex-outer perience: knowledge) including the bodily ones are entirely governed or assisted. No wonder the mind is over-worked and this develops what we call the three states of consciousness. The gross state or waking state or moving state consists of the total activities of the individual observable through the senses both of one’s own body and of the outer world. But the dream state has suspended all the outer motions – though it is clear that internal or subjective movements are not made but appear to have been made. Dreams seem to have all the activities which none observes but yet subjectively done – so to speak – all this is imagination. No wonder the philosophers who generalized on this dream consciousness have built up a universe of imagination – of mental creation. That these creations could be fantasy, hallucinatory and fairly described as psychotic constructions is well known. A man may be known for his internal nature by seeing or hearing his creation – mainly imaginative and artistic. Perhaps it would be necessary to see whether there are not layers of this dream consciousness – and here we must be grateful to the modern workers: Freud, Jung, Adler, Fromm and others, and even the great artists Blake, Joyce, Lawrence, Elliot and others. Perhaps it is in the creative mind that is imagination the free flow of psychic energy expresses itself so to mould the given material of the waking consciousness. A fruitful study has been available on the work of S.T. Coleridge – The Road to Xanadu. There can be a great amount of psychic analysis on these writers taking them to be operating on the mind at this second level. The ancients called this level – taijasa-illuminating zone – not the dark zone but the luminous one not unmindful of the light this can throw on man’s personality. In one sense this zone of man reveals his astral personality, that personality which is said to transmigrate to the other bodies at rebirth. Whether we accept this point or not the fact seems to be that crux of man’s life is said to be discovered in his dreams or that illumined subjective condition which is dynamically constructive imagination.

True it is that the ancients held that one enjoys all his desires or their contraries in this zone of his daily life. Whether they are made by himself or by a higher than all – God – it is certain that there is an independence which disproves autonomy in the dream construction by oneself. However artists try to develop some amount of autonomy in their productions. However this poetic movement of the mind in dream conditions is sought to be transcended since all these productions or objectifications of inner conflicts and hopes and the peace. Fulfillment of the inner life is held by some to be the condition of peace – they call this the positive peace and the other peace is said to be the peace of renunciation – negative peace. This positive peace of fulfillment seems to be a great attractive force and ideal. The great literatures are in fact attempts to gain this peace through fulfillment: so too the great sculptures and paintings which immortalise the mortal in stone and marble.

But the means adopted for this purpose seems to be definitely not what the Psycho-analytic schools call analysis of the Unconscious through dream or association or myth or some other kind of complex arising from physical or ability-defect. The annihilation of the mind-nirmamata – is also sought. In fact in Buddhist psychology this condition is arrived at in jhana of the Void, mindlessness, amanaska and so on.

Thus the value of the modern psychological or psycho-analytic treatment lies not in the ultimate attainment of peace that religion aims at but at the lesser adjustment or adaptation to the cultural situation or environmental conditions etc. Perhaps it may be suggested that this mind-problem is essentially a human problem – for such conflicts are not available in animals etc. Whilst this might be the opinion of man it is held that they too in their own way have this difficulty at least at the greatest moments of crisis – of death through sudden conditions, like floods, typhoons, fires and so on. But let us not enter into that field firstly because of its patent obscurity and secondly because of its difficulty.

Man and his mind seem to be in this difficult station – his mind seems to bring about his distempers. The getting rid of mind seems to be the problem – its solution may lie in ever so many directions, through sexual orgy, wine or religion, which escapes from all the above, through penance and abstinence, perfect self-control and dhyana – meditation that seeks to serve the power of the mind over the self or man. These are powers used to check the movements of the mind, the movements which might even be imaginative creation and so on. Arts were looked down upon in religion at the beginning: later arts subordinating themselves tried to please religion by expounding religious motifs and themes; in the end arts conquered religion; religion’s importance seemed to derive from art productions rather than art derive its power from religious experience. But since religious experience is the experience invisible or of the invisible etc., it had always to go beyond art.

If psychology considers that Art is not only a means of imaginative construction, it has also to take note of the fact that it is a psychical behaviour revealing the personality (or depersonality) or integration (or disintegration) of mind at the back of the process or mind in activity. Whether art can itself help in the overtification or externalization of the conflicts within the mind and manifest the inner repressions without being aware of their being repressed or without inhibition is a matter of great concern. Perhaps subtly most art is of this order and it performs a spontaneous function in restoring the normalcy of mental life – provided however it is not encouraged overmuch by neurotic audience or fans, who find in such exhibition their own repressed sentiments or complex getting an expression. In this sense the neurotic art may well help therapy. But this is a real field for investigation. We find in the religious institution the festivals and other occasions the institutions and rituals as well as the other paraphernalia do go a long way to satisfy this liberation of the pent up psychic forces. All that religion does is to canalize the movements and whilst appearing to permit or freely express the inward unconscious cravings it subtly regulates the actual culmination. Thus it is that religious houses have been considered to be houses that restore peace of mind that permits a free expression of pent up grief’s, emotions the most urgent of dependence, of love, of sensual participation in idea and image, of repentance for sins so called, the lapses or possession by other spirits and so on. In fact the religious institutions are clearing houses not only of all dirt and disease of the mind but grant a sense of restoration of the balance that is the necessity between the three levels of consciousness – the waking the dream and the deep sleep. One finds oneself in a fourth state of liberated waking, dreaming and sleep.

The institution of Surrender to God in works, in knowledge and in devotion, called Bhara-Nyass or Prapatti, even like its similar Confession in Christianity is a significant process of opening out without any reservation. All that modern psychiatrists try to do is to create an impression of scientific opening up of the inward life with perhaps success in all those cases where religious impulses have lost grip. The truth is that confessions have been abused and trustworthiness of the priest or confessor has been questioned by the mind or else there is no real confessing possible.

In ancient times of the confessor, the priest or the Guru is known to have the powers of reading the minds or its flow of impressions and as such one could not even try to hide or repress one’s overt feelings. Indeed the real cause of fear of the Guru in most cases is this awareness of his omniscient gaze that penetrates the core of one’s conscious as well as unconscious life. This may be called thought-reading, it is not simply that it sees through the very nature of subconscious and the unconscious as they seem to intermingle and confuse the conscious. Once this inhibition by the conscious is removed the subconscious begins to freely express itself and in and through it the unconscious liberated gives up its tensions. A visit to the Guru is a liberating experience and when this is not done one gets a kind of feeling of not having the santi for which one went to him. The realization that not all pundits and scholars or practicants are of this caliber is also known. They are a bundle of inhibitors themselves and do not get deeper into the hearts of men – though they are generous in themselves. The choice of a psychiatrist is as much an important factor as the choice of gurus – not all can be successful in this art of removing inhibitions in confession or association. There is a sensitivity, which cannot be known at all in the person who seeks to be freed from his tensions or complexes, which gauges the confessor or psychiatrist and rejects him or accepts him. It is this sensitivity that determines the success of the psychiatrist or the Guru. Any defect in morality or seriousness or cupidity or any other defect would definitely undermine the confidence and the Guru (his modern counterpart the psychiatrist) falls in the estimation.

The important factor in Religious institutions is that the Guru must be of the ideal type, not merely one striving after an ideal – and as far from it as possible. It is usual for some to say that an ideal realized is no longer an ideal-yes, an unrealizable ideal is not ideal at all. This fact seems to have been missed by the idealists as a rule-especially British idealism suffers from this self-contradiction. This can be a ruinous disposition in any religious Guru or psychiatrist or any other. The Guru is no substitute for the psychiatrist but he does something that the latter can never do. The Guru is one who by his transcendental contact is able to stir the lowest levels of consciousness of the patient and thereafter regulate its free movement into the higher levels even as he makes the highest levels flow freely downwards to release the tension of all the three organic levels. This restoration of psychic energies – What is called homeo-stasis by psychologists in the little balances of tensions or forces built up within the psycho-physical system is the work of a Master of the psycho-physical system, is the work of a Master of the psychic and spiritual integrative processes. It is here that the truly spiritual Guru helps in a larger way towards santi (peace). This is lasting peace and not capable of being disturbed by the next onslaught. Temporary restorations are all that psychiatrist tinkering can do.

This is not to hold the view that religious institution of the Guru is not abused. We are not concerned with the professional misuse of all sciences and arts. The craftiness of man overtakes all crafts and makes man pessimistic about men. This is as much a modern danger as it was in ancient times but only much greater.

True religious transformation demands one’s going beyond the objectifications of religious ideas and techniques. The tendency of all institutions to live for themselves and not for the purpose for which they were devised is a psychological fact or law which one should not be blind to.

True spiritual peace is possible only through spiritual freedom. This peace is something incommunicable. It is something not only felt within the individual heart but also by those who live with such as have attained it. Men gather round such a person for their own peace. The gentle vibrations that flow into the heart of all are not like the turbulent vibrations that arise in the hearts of lovers and others, it is that which reduces these to the condition of equipoise (samatva). One begins to discern the oneness in all, absence of non-equality in all and one rests in this as the basis of one’s reality. One begins to exist in oneself truly and in all. A true cosmic awareness is available to such a person.

Thus the renunciation of the conflicts both within and without engendered by objective dependence and organic stimulations is transcended and real spiritual vision dominates that life which is beyond all this life. This transformative dynamism of true Spiritual Guidance is not only the necessity for man, it is also far beyond the grasp of the pure psychologist resting on his physical and mechanical techniques suitable for discovering his statistical laws and so on. As it was pointed out in that work called PSYCHE by Peter Hourke no psychological laboratory could find out his extraordinary faculty of predictive visions and so on. The exploration into Siddhis is not the province of this paper. All of them are within the competence of a mind that has opened up the activities of Cosmic minds. However there are others who hold that all that is imaginative projections, but they are nonetheless phenomena we can ill afford to dismiss in so far as they could be reproduced and affect large masses of people, even like the created illusory effects in the cinema and their capacity to modify or distort young minds and this whilst satisfying the subconscious and unconscious cravings of frustrated minds. Religion protests against this aspect at modern distortions by amateur and immature creative artists and libido-mongers.

Psychology can gain a lot of impetus from a study of Religious and spiritual phenomena-and these are more likely to be found in books of the highest caliber and from the Saints. Modern sainthood is not immune from some of the drawbacks of modern knowledge. We are however clear that Upanishads and the great scriptures can directly help to throw light. Jung has shown a right perspective approach to this problem (of. Psychological Types where he has tried to interpret Vedic passages).

The general laws of psychology in religion are modified in the context of a different layer or level of consciousness. The physiological counterpart of this area in the human organism has not yet been awakened in most and it plays only the unconscious role-that is to say one is not able to locate or determine it. Ancients in the West located this in the Pineal gland. But in India it has been located in the Cerebellum (Sri Ram Chandra of Shahjahanpur).

The spiritual activity is in the form of vibrations and these have any number of modifications and grossening in the physiological system. The psychic or psychonic system (Bousfield’s term) has to be recognized as the field of operations of the Extrasensory and Astral Vision and audition and recognition. It is this most causal field that reveals activities in progress long before their physical occurrence that is worked upon by the Spiritual Genius or Guru. This too he is permitted to do for the transformation of the individual so that he can grow into a healthy and transcendental being in due course. Such a one is cured of his complexes and repressions and conflicts, and all such tendencies as the inordinate Will to Pleasure, to Power, to Life and to Die.

The transcendence ultimately from the astral being of the individual to the spiritual releases him from the binding nature of all these life-phenomena and mind-phenomena and makes him realise himself as the spirit that is harmony and freedom for which we yearn in our depths, to which we turn as to a haven, and to which we endeavour to return even through death or suicide in our moments of greatest distress and conflict and inadaptability. The Spiritual Realisation is not had through this physical death as such but through a significant knowledge that liberates one truly and not only temporarily by suspending the physical body from existence. The astral and the unconscious bodies are casual bodies which yearn to create new bodies for enjoyment and fulfillment. The transcendence of the causal is the condition of perfect peace and freedom even in the causal and the physical. This is the promise of the Upanisads and the Yogis of India.

The mere study of the darsanas where in the terms and manas buddhi and ahamkara are analysed and expounded leaves much to be desired. The Philosophic understanding of these terms is very abstract and concreteness is sacrificed for the purposes of an abstract theory.

For example, the placing of buddhi (or mahan) above ahamkara means that ahamkara is a derivative from mahan or buddhi. This may be very good as a kind of anticipatory Kantianism in epistemology-the subject is a product of experience rather than its cause or its possibility. The object implies a subject but is recognized as subject only after the experience of the object. This is precisely what Indian Samkhya holds. But this almost means to explain that individual creation or the individual bodies are products of “I-awareness’ (ahamkara or I-Products) and this individuation is said to start only after the universal prakriti (Nature) has come to take pose of Mahan (vastness ) or an intellection that is yet unindividuated. The order theory of the Bhagavad Gita and perhaps of Earlier Samkhya (theistic), is that individuation is earlier (I-product ahamkara) is the first formation of the nature and the intellection (buddhi) or mahan, because of its becoming poised for further manifestation as the foetus, organs and so on both subtle and gross, is the result of the earlier ego formation. This is a distinct point of psychological experience to explain. Do intellection and individuation maintain a relationship of cause and effect; which precedes which?

So too the point of enquiry makes us ask the question whether activity produces organs or organs produce activities? And are not activities equally as much as cognivities sources of knowledge? Could we separate the two functions which are in integral relationship between themselves in the organism and claim that only one set produces the knowledge and the other hardly does so and is in fact is an interference to knowledge? These questions have hardly been seriously noted by theoretical darsanikas without any direct inspection of experimental data. Religious Experience both in its interiority as well as in its objectivity tries to bridge the gulf that intellectual and abstract philosophies raise.

What is needed is a sound religious sensibility seeking to fathom the depths of the individual consciousness in all its levels so as to provide the main challenge to the self-the attainment of inward smrti or pratyabhijna that liberates from his privativeness and insularity and dialectical conflict with all, and facilitates the expression of freedom that is the love of God”