The Spiritual Community

The Harmonist (Sree Sajjanatoshani)
August 1930

Samkirtan, the Divine Dispensation ordained for this speculative and critical Age as the only method of spiritual endeavour, means literally ‘chanting in company by many.’ The holy, transcendental Name, Form, Quality, Activity and Paraphernalia of the Divinity are to be chanted by congregation of the devotees. The holy Name is the first to be chanted. In order to realise the transcendental nature of the holy Name it will be necessary to receive the knowledge of Him from the pure devotee. The knowledge is not receivable or impartable by argumentative communication. Logic cannot lead one to the transcendental plane. There is no logical reason why it should. The Transcendental Himself can alone admit one to His plane. The pure devotee is the agent of the Lord for admitting to the transcendental plane. He performs this function by the method of imparting the holy Name.

The devotee does not impart the Name to one who is not really willing to serve Him on the plane of the Absolute. The inclination is tested by means of the quality and degree of submissiveness to himself as the agent of the Absolute. The submission to the devotee is identical with submission to the holy Name. Submission to the holy Name is the necessary condition for receiving the knowledge of the Absolute. The devotee imparts the holy Name to the person who really wants to function on the transcendental plane.

But all this is individual. A person may receive the Name from Sri Gurudeva and chant the Same in the company of devotees and thereby realise in due order the nature of the Form, Quality, Activity and Paraphernalia including his own specific service and thus be enabled to function fully on the plane of the Absolute. This is declared to be impossible in this rationalistic Age.

There is a very good reason for such declaration. One who has heard the Name from the lips of Sri Gurudeva is no doubt entitled to chant the Same. But this chanting is not possible in an Age which is devoid of spontaneous faith in the statements of the Scriptures. The Iron Age is not permitted by the Creator to have any real instinctive faith in Godhead. Those who simulate such faith are either hypocrites or excessively credulous people in the worldly sense. Real faith is directed to the Reality and not to any fancy derived from the experience of this phenomenal world. Neither the idiot nor the scoundrel is specially entitled to the living and real faith in Godhead.

But it is sometimes supposed thoughtlessly that as faith in God is not attainable by logical discussion it can be only attainable by idiocy or want of conviction calling itself conviction by the method of hypocrisy. A little honest reflection should show that the transcendental has nothing to do with idiots and hypocrites any more than with the pedants and the virtuous of this world.

In a rationalistic Age one who tries to avoid to exercise his judgement will be punished by ignorance of a grosser type. When this ignorance is practised as service of God it is called superstition or hypocrisy. True faith must be distinguished from both of these. There are unfortunately large sections of the people in every country who belong to the classes of the superstitious and hypocrites by reason of their want of rationality and the foolish credulity and natural wickedness of these people are exploited by a corresponding class of knaves and fools who pose themselves as teachers of religion. In a rationalistic Age the most foolish people necessarily know more logic than is compatible with the instinctive faith of the right type. So it will not do for any person in this twentieth century to chant the holy Name on the strength of intuitive faith which he does not and cannot ordinarily possess. In other words if anyone begins to chant the holy Name on the strength of his possessing intuitive faith he should not only find that the process is another Name for idleness, and get quickly tired of it, or, if he is dishonest, he will try to exploit this really idle habit for securing honour and advantages for himself from the dunces, the hypocrites and the idlers. But no honest person in this rationalistic Age will long stick to the chant of the holy Name if this is to be the only form of activity that he is allowed as is the clear injunction of the Scriptures in regard to the chanter of the holy Name.

The chant of the holy Name, therefore, is not possible for individuals in an Age that is naturally and necessarily devoid of intuitive faith in Godhead. It is not necessary to suppose that all Ages have been like the present one. The nature of the Age is not something made by man or anybody else except by its Creator. If real faith is made spontaneously available to any Age by the will of the Creator, it need not be regarded as impossible by any one for the reason that he himself, belonging to a rationalistic Age, can form no idea of its possible existence in the circumstances with which he happens to be familiar. To ask him to believe in the possibility of a golden Age is not such a great demand on his credulity as he may be inclined to suppose if he takes into consideration the fact that faith itself is super-rational. The rationalist cherishes a secret pseudo-faith in the back of his mind that faith in God is identical with the worldly rational instinct.

But faith in God is not identical with the so-called rational instinct of this world. It is a gift from Above. We can have it only by grace. The rational instinct that is found in this world is a gross perversion of real faith. This is realisable by grace. The attitude that it is so realisable is implied in the rational instinct itself. The rational instinct, unless it deliberately stints itself, knows very well that it cannot really believe in anything because it does not know and cannot know the real nature of anything. I have purposely used the word ‘believe’ to express the position, because the condition of faith is not attainable by our present rational instinct.

Faith is not, therefore, identical with the rational instinct that prompts the various worldly activities. The rationalist cannot chant the holy Name because he is devoid of faith. Nor can the idiot and the hypocrite chant the Name, because of their ignorance and hypocrisy which also are all quite different from any function on the transcendental plain.

How may, therefore, the chanting of the holy Name be properly performed after He has been heard from the lips of a true devotee? The Scriptures, says Sri Chaitanyadeva, have provided the right method, viz. congregational chanting as meeting the proper requirements of this rationalistic Age. The method of spiritual endeavour need not be supposed to be divisible by the human reason. It can be laid down and made available to us only be the grace of Godhead. It will no doubt satisfy all our instincts when we really attain to it. But the nature of such satisfaction is bound to remain necessarily and utterly unrealisable to us before we are actually enabled to attain the same by the grace of God-head.

The holy Name must be chanted without offence. The offence in this case means all conduct derived from the present rational or irrational instincts. The offence can be avoided only by discarding the society alike of so-called rational as well as so-called irrational persons and cultivating association with the really enlightened by the method of submitting to them to be taught the method of spiritual living that is at present utterly unknown to myself.

In order to be able to chant the Name without offence one must, therefore, live without offence. He must learn to live without offence by submitting to live under the complete direction of the devotees. This is very difficult, but not impossible for married persons. It should be easy and unobjectionable in the case of children and unmarried young persons. It should be most likely to succeed in the case of children. But as the success of the process is not really pre-ordained by reason of perfect freedom of will that is the eternal concomitant of the spiritual nature, allowed to all souls by the will of the Divinity, one is not entitled to speculate on the possibilities of redemption of particular souls. The whole process is left purposely open by God Himself. But no one in this world can be a loser by the effort to add to his or her spiritual experience. Everyone is likely to be mortally injured by keeping away from the society of pure souls.

But as there is no knowing as to whether a person will ever elect to accept the spiritual life, it becomes necessary to have an organisation that should enable all persons to have the benefit of the society of persons endeavouring to live the spiritual life under the direction of perfectly pure souls. This arrangement also exists in this world by the will of the Divinity and has existed as long as the necessity for it have been found to exist. The arrangement is laid down in the Scriptures. It bears the designation of ‘the system of orders and stages’ or ‘the system of Varna and Asrama’ in the Sanskrit language. The value of the spiritual organisation is thus explained in the Vishnu Purana—‘Vishnu, the Supreme Transcendental Lord pervading the world, is worshipped by a person who practises the mode of living enjoined by the system of Varna and Asrama. There is no other way by which the people of this world may please Him’.