A constantly repeated criticism of secular minds against spirituality is that the impact of spirituality on human life is either nil or minimal or even negative. The secular mind asks: “What all these mystics, seers and sages have done for the economic and social development of humanity or for the elimination of poverty, hunger or illiteracy in humanity?” It is like asking what scientists like Einstein have done to clean the streets and sewers of the world.
Sri Aurobindo in his “Life Divine” makes the following important points in his answer to this secular objection to spirituality:
To solve economic or social problems is not the real work or dharma of spirituality. The true mission of spirituality is “not to solve human problems on the past or present mental basis but to create a new foundation of our being and our life and knowledge”. The main business of a spiritual man is “to discover the spiritual being in himself” and “to help others towards the same is his real service to the race” or in other words the true dharma of a spiritual man is to help in the spiritual evolution of the human race and not economic or social development.
So, asking a spiritual man why he is not helping to bring economic prosperity or social development is like the demand of the child in the following story narrated by Swami Vivekananda in one of his talks.
A child sucking a lolly pop asked a scientist working in a laboratory “What you are doing?” and the scientist said “I am doing research to discover the nature of electricity”. The child said “What is the use of your research? Will it bring me more lollipops?”
The Unseen Impact
We must note here that discovery of electrical energy by Faraday had in fact helped in bringing more candies to more children at affordable prices by multiplying the productivity of candy factories. Similarly thoughts, feelings, actions and inner experiences and realization of spiritual personalities may have positive impact on the outer or secular life of the society in the long term. A spiritual person need not necessarily remain aloof and indifferent to the economic and social problems facing humanity. He or she may create a new paradigm of thought and practice in economics, society or politics, based on deeper psychological and spiritual principles, which may lead to a more lasting solution to economic or social problem or a qualitative elevation of the economic and social life to higher levels of values, ideals or vision. At a deeper level, spiritual energies released by the inner experiences or realisations or even by the mere presence of a self-realised spiritual person have a positive impact in the mental atmosphere of humanity. When some asked Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, a modern sage, when all this horror and misery facing humanity will end, he said, “When more and more people realize their true self, their thoughts, feelings and actions will sweeten the atmosphere of earth, which will slowly transform the consciousness of humanity”. For, the spiritual energies of a self-realised soul are egoless and selfless forces of the unity-consciousness of the spirit. When they accumulate and diffuse into the mental atmosphere of humanity, they will exert a gentle, silent and invisible pressure on the minds of people to become more selfless and egoless and create an inner sensitivity to the ideal of unity. This may express itself in the mental and moral level as an increasing and wide spread receptivity to higher values like giving, sharing, unity, harmony in every activity of human life, which in turn may lead to a more equitable and sustainable economic and social development. This may be one of the process by which the consciousness of humanity is made receptive to the spiritual aim.
But this is still within the realm of mental and moral evolution of humanity. For a permanent and ultimate solution of all human problems – economic, social, political, moral, psychological or spiritual – there must be a radical shift in human consciousness from ego-centric consciousness of the mind to the unitive consciousness of the spirit where each individual can feel his or her oneness with all, which means feeling all others as part of one’s own self, not merely in thought or feeling but in the very substance of one’s consciousness, as concretely as we feel our body as our own self.
Towards a Life-transforming Spirituality
This may appear as a very far-off aim. Left to the slow process of the normal evolutionary process of Nature, it may take many thousands or even millions of years. But this slow process of evolution is more or less coming to an end. We are at present in a transitional stage where human evolution is moving from the slow, subconscious process to a more rapid and conscious evolution.
According to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother this more conscious evolution of the human race from the mental to the supramental consciousness of the spirit is the next and future step envisaged by Nature in her evolutionary journey on our planet. What is demanded from us as human beings, is a conscious and willing consent and an understanding participation to this evolutionary progress. For the human race as a whole this consent and participation may take the following forms:
- Increasing acceptance of this spiritual evolution and transformation as the goal of human development.
- A similar acceptance of a new system of education which can bring about this higher evolution, based on the principles and practices of Indian Yoga.
- A new breed of spiritually awakened leadership with a spiritual intuition in every activity of human life, which means not only in religion and culture as in the past, but also in all secular activities like economics, politics, government business, science and technology, giving a total spiritual direction to human life.
When these three forms of participation begin to happen and our human life starts moving decisively in this direction, then the opposition or even the distinction between the secular and spiritual life disappears and with it goes the very basis of the secular objection to spirituality.