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An interview with Swami Tadvidananda
Swami Tadvidananda isn't a godman. He doesn't believe in one either. A senior member of the Ramakrishna Mission Monastic Order, he is refreshingly different in his views on religion and God.
Does your monastic order believe in god? Can you explain what is god?
The order does believe in god. The divine power is in the selflessness of a person. There is goodness in each human being. Everyone possesses supernatural power. It is manifest through our acts. Similarly, there is evil in everyone. It is our actions that determine whether we allow the goodness within us to prevail over the evil or vice-versa.
Haven't you had a dilemma on the existence of god?
No, I have never had a dilemma after going through Vivekananda's discourses. If you believe god is humanity, there will never be any dilemma. To enter the monastic order, one has to also study Indian and western philosophy. I have never found a contradiction in them.
Of late, the very existence of god is being debated, mainly in western society.
I am aware of the debate in society and think it is healthy. As for proof that god exists, we do not have a problem living with a person in a room. If the person is ailing, we are concerned but don't have any fear. But the moment the person dies, a sense of fear grips us. That is because the energy or god within a person is no more. Some proof is physical in nature. Others can be understood through action. For instance, can you quantify or measure love? Science or mathematics cannot do so. It is through action that love is expressed. I don't believe there is anyone called atheist. That he says there is 'no' god means the 'yes' troubles him.
Is religion essential in society?
Religion and rituals are not the same. Religion is about spirituality and belief. Rituals have been created over time to act as a medium for society to understand the philosophy of a religion. Belief in humanity and oneself is enough. But given the distractions in our daily life, it is difficult to create an island of peace to seek spirituality. Hence, the relevance of religion. If one is capable of concentrating without having to take recourse to a medium, that is absolutely fine.
If one does not want to be religious and yet explore spirituality, how does one do it?
Swami Vivekananda advocated learning. It opens the doors of the mind. The more one is educated and learned, the more is the realisation about self and other human beings.
But religions or orders have led to differences among communities and sparked the clash of civilisations. . .
It is not religion that has sparked the clashes;it is politics of people who have used religion for their own purpose. No religion in the world espouses violence. It is the misinterpretation that has led to the current state of affairs.
Do people become less religious as democracies advance?
It isn't that people in countries that are more advanced don't believe in god. But they have more distractions and comforts that material wealth provides. Hence, there is less time spent on the subject. Ultimately, it is about selflessness. Even the wealthiest do think about renunciation at some point of time in life. Otherwise, how does one explain super-rich men like Warren Buffet or Bill and Melinda Gates turning donors? As for poor countries, since there aren't as many attractions, the poor are attracted to rituals that are part of religion.
The Church has recently been scandalhit. Are institutional orders necessary?
Despite recent troubles, the church remains a potent force. Institutions or orders like the church or RKM are necessary to enable more people find a discipline which will lead them to a path of self-awareness and discovery. But if one is capable of taking out just 10 minutes in a day to introspect in silence, no order or religion is requi-red. I believe spiritual atheism is the greatest order. But it is not an easy one.
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