What is Religion? If we go by the Cicero interpretation then Religion will have the sense of ‘choosing’ or ‘going over again’ or ‘considering things carefully’, but that would miss the occult possibility present in the sense of binding or connecting them together. The root significance of ligare is to bind or connect together; this is also quite akin to the ancient Sanskrit dharma in its deeper and fundamental meaning and connotation, that which binds things together. Perhaps, therefore, instead of asking the question “What is Religion?”, an appropriate and meaningful inquiry which might shed more light on it could be “What is Dharma?” Let us see this aspect briefly.
But let’s remember that the Dharma is twofold—collective and individual. Etymologically the word Dharma is that which holds things together, on which things find support to be. In The Essays on the Gita Sri Aurobindo explains: it is the word which means “holding”, from the root dhŗ, to hold. It is the law, the norm, the rule of nature, action and life that holds them all together. The very first phrase of the Gita pregnantly considers the issue of human existence in the context of Dharma, existence as dharma-kşétra, the battlefield of truthful action. But the Teacher of the Gita goes even a step farther and says that whenever there’s the decline of the Dharma, he looses himself forth into birth, looses to halt the uprising of unrighteousness, looses forth for the deliverance of the good and the destruction of the evil-doers. And yet, even beyond that, is his birth which is principally to do the divine work.
That’s the purpose of the loosing forth of the Divine Being in this creation, “to give a spiritual mould of divine manhood into which the seeking soul of the human being can cast itself. It is to give a dharma, a religion,—not a mere creed, but a method of inner and outer living,—a way, a rule and law of self-moulding by which he can grow towards divinity. It is too, since this growth, this ascent is no mere isolated and individual phenomenon, but like all in the divine world-activities a collective business, a work and the work for the race, to assist the human march, to hold it together in its great crises, to break the forces of the downward gravitation when they grow too insistent, to uphold or restore the great dharma of the Godward law in man's nature, to prepare even, however far off, the kingdom of God, the victory of the seekers of light and perfection and the overthrow of those who fight for the continuance of the evil and the darkness.”
If such is the connotation of the word Dharma or Religion, the etymology already carrying profound esotericism in it, then perhaps there’s nothing wrong, nothing alarming in the Integral Yoga becoming such a Dharma or Religion, though it’s not yet exactly that. Dharma is indeed action governed by the swabhāva, “the essential law of one's nature”, and, in a sense, is inescapable. It’s an inherent power of one’s consciousness, the will and action being carried through its agency. It’s the condition of being driven from within, the positive thing that contributes to the individual’s as well as the collective’s growth, growth in the righteousness, in the dynamism of the expressive and operative truth possibilities.
But at a decisive stage in the spiritual life of an individual arrives a marvellous moment also when he is conjoined to abandon all the dharmas howsoever great they be, sarvadharmān parityajya, and he is told to take refuge in the supreme Lord himself. “Abandon all dharmas,” proclaims the Teacher, “give thyself to the Divine alone, to the supreme Godhead above and around and within thee: that is all that thou needest, that is the truest and greatest way, that is the real deliverance.”
In the essence of the Gita’s teachings, this is exactly what the Integral Yoga also upholds and recommends—encourages us to put ourselves in the hands of the Divine and allow him to do his work unhindered in us. Nothing else then need be really considered or weighed in the spiritual reckoning. We might get deluded by what people do or don’t do, but that’s altogether immaterial if the core truth is seized by the aspirant soul. My relationship is with my Godhead and it least concerns me how others behave, how others establish their relationships with their Godheads, at least in the immediate context. Where are the creeds here then, and where the rituals and the rites, and the stipulations of this and that and of not this and not that? But the beauty of the Integral Yoga is far beyond the “real deliverance” offered by the Gita. Of first importance in the Integral Yoga is the lending of ourselves for the divine action in every part of us, in our will and thought and feeling, in our soul and in our spirit, down to the physical. And the Mother’s supreme Mantra was: “What thou willest, What thou willest” operating in the very cells of her body.
The idea of the collective Dharma in a scriptural way was first given to us perhaps by the Teacher of the Gita himself, the concept of the Sanatan Dharma, the Eternal Law. It pervades in a mighty way in the entire Mahabharata. It was again given in a living way by Sri Krishna to Sri Aurobindo in the Alipore Jail, during the early period of his incarceration, in 1908. He reveals to us: “Sanatan Dharma is life itself; it is a thing that has not so much to be believed as lived. This is the Dharma that for the salvation of humanity was cherished in the seclusion of this peninsula from of old.” ...
What is sectarian in it, creedal, ritualistic, non-secular even mystical or esoteric in this Sanatana Dharma? That which was “perfected and developed through the Rishis, saints and Avatars” has been reasserted in the collective consciousness.
As a collective way of life the ancient traditions were founded on this Religion of Eternity, the Truth-movement in the expanding ways of life. Let us just see its remarkable presentation in the tale of Savitri as given to us by Vyasa in the Mahabharata. We may, by way of an example, make reference to the colloquy between Yama the God of Death and Savitri. Yama has snatched away the soul of her husband Satyavan and she is arguing with him that he should restore it for the fulfilment of the natural conduct of life based on the principles of the noble Dharma. She pleads:
“Following one’s own dharma, approved by those who are established in the Truth, one knows the path which takes one to the goal; such is the dharma which the sages hold to be excellent. Holy people ever abide in the dharma, and do not the sages despair, nor are they afflicted any time. Such a company or fellowship of the pious with the saints is never without rewards or fruits. Never is for them any fear from the saints. By the Truth the saints lead the sun; by askesis the saints uphold the earth; the past, present and future find their refuge in the saints. Noble persons in the midst of the saints have never any grief. Those endowed with nobility honour and serve the dharmic practices of eternal value; in that they strive for the supreme good of one another, and at each other do not look otherwise. Benedictions of the person established in the Truth go never unfulfilled; neither in them is the ill of selfishness, nor is there the wounded sense of lost pride; and because such three qualities are ever present in the saints, they are hailed as the protectors of the world.”
Young and bright Satyavan himself was conjoined in the dharma, he was dharmasamyukta, and was beautiful, and was an ocean of noble qualities.
The organization of the collective life based on the Truth-principles, following the Truth-Law, the Dharma, is the true basis of a harmonious working. The Mother did it in the Ashram and initiated it so on a much larger scale at Auroville. The chief concern is that the Truth-Law must flow in this vast manifestation with a thousand possibilities opening out for its expression...
If so, then, what’s there in all this, really, to cry foul and say that Integral Yoga has become or is becoming a Religion, the conventional religion as understood by the common masses? I don’t see anywhere in the teachings of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo any such possibility; nor in practice enjoined by them. That does not mean that new aspirants don’t come with their earlier habits and ways of doing things, with their past samskāras, with their heavy baggages. Who would come without them? But if there’s the authentic inner call for the higher life, then nothing of the past should in reality discourage us. A well-focused pursuit—and that’s all that matters. And there are a thousand ways of engaging oneself in the pursuit.
All this can happen only when there’s the quiet receptivity in our souls, the soul looking for truth and beauty and joy and luminous power and knowledge. Ronjon has put a Mother’s Quote on August 23 as follows: “It is in the silence of your heart that the Divine will speak to you and will guide you and will lead you to your goal.” All religions will disappear when we listen to the Divine in the silence of our heart. But until then? Perhaps all that will be inconsequential from a spiritual point of view, not of much concern in the totality and the essentiality of things. ~ RYD Reply