The entire world is tremendously disturbed today, predominantly due to religious intolerance, ignorance, fanaticism, dogmatism and exhibitionism of a misplaced religious superiority complex. Interestingly, Sri Krishna addressed all these problems and established the true spirit of spiritual secularism long ago. Solutions to present problems can neither be found in non-religious atheism nor in any particular religion, but in genuine secularism and spirituality that Krishna promoted.
Amid the sectarian celebration of Janmashtami, we tend to miss the most important point made by Krishna, to “Leave aside diverse religious rituals and seek refuge only in the supreme Self.” This indeed is a clarion call to all of humanity, on this occasion, to celebrate synthesis of religions. Krishna never spread any sectarian religious concept; he promoted an all-embracing and all-confirming concept of spirituality beyond religious faiths. Yet he did not discard any religious faith or ritual, confirming that all these invariably reach the supreme Spirit worshipped through various ways and modes, through the paths of wisdom, devotion, psychophysical practices and selfless service. That is the message of the Bhagwad Gita.
Aldous Huxley found the clearest and most comprehensive human philosophy in the non-sectarian teachings of the Gita, which are meant not only for Indians but for all of humankind. He found it to be the most systematic spiritual statement of the perennial philosophy ever to have been made. Identically, Christopher Isherwood said in this context, “God’s light dwells in the Self and nowhere else. It shines alike in everything and one can see it with one’s mind steadied.” Any narrow ideology needs to be replaced by a broader ideology. In the Gita, Krishna spreads the message of eternal wisdom of unity of soul in diversity.
The genesis of secularism, as we understand the term, rooted in Gita teachings has been explained by S Radhakrishnan: “When India is said to be a secular state, it does not mean that we reject the reality of an unseen Spirit or the relevance of religion to life or that we exalt irreligion. It does not mean that secularism itself becomes a positive religion or that the state assumes divine prerogatives. We hold that no one religion should be given preferential status. This view of religious impartiality or comprehension and forbearance has a prophetic role to play within national and international life.”
Krishna did not advocate any particular religion. Interestingly, he himself did not belong to the Brahmin class as the synthesis of the whole gamut of human spirituality was to be spread by him. Predominantly, he taught yoga, the art of right action and attainment of equanimity, which paves the way for union with the supreme Self through selfless service, divine wisdom, intense devotion and certain psychological practices.
According to Krishna, there are only two major aspects of religions, samkhya and yoga — the path of wisdom of pure awareness and the path of right action in view of the indivisible oneness of existence. Krishna made a synthesis of the two as the progress of consciousness is dialectical.
Right action is inactivity amid action and wisdom is awareness of the flow of happenings or action. Finality lies in surrendering to the Absolute, beyond relative wisdom or action.
Krishna taught us to be truly secular, rising above all religions and becoming intensely spiritual for ultimate realisation.