Along with the Four Yogas and their synthesis, the sincere spiritual aspirant, seeking the highest good of all living beings, should study in turn the tenets of Sankhya which provide him with the cosmological basis for the universe and the knowledge of the distinct nature of the Soul; Yoga, which facilitates the extrication of the misguided and restless mind from preoccupation with matter so as to gain samadhi; Tantra, that teaches how to deify and worship everything endowed with form; and Vedanta that clarifies the distinction between the immutable Soul and transient matter in order to transmit to us the greatest of all lessons — that when perceived arightly via enlightened darshana, “All Existence is Brahman.” As the Great Swami states via his own experience: “Let there be but a dozen lion-souls in each country, lions who have broken their own bonds, who have touched the Infinite, whose whole soul has gone to Brahman, who care neither for wealth, nor power, nor fame, and these will be enough to shake the world.”
Indian philosophical systems and practices thus grace the seeker after Truth with new intellectual depths and experiential heights, all without disturbing one’s faith in the religion of their birth. According to Sri Ramakrishna, the paragon of Universality, for the adamant devotee of God it is not a matter of dilution or replacement, but rather of integration and expansion. Using the story of cows in the field to illustrate this, He says, “Cows let out to pasture mix happily and easily amongst themselves, but when they return to the barn at dusk the farmer puts them each in their own stall.” The religion of one’s birth, and all religion, is therefore to be considered sacred. But religions as separate factions and doctrines tend to pass through stages of accretion and deterioration over cycles; there is no knowing what condition a seeker will find religion in at any given age, in any given birth. An open-minded policy is thus the best to adopt by those who feel that living near to God, at the Source, is the ultimate solution.
And to those of a more narrow disposition, who arrogantly consider their own religion to be the only path and consider the faiths of others to be false or alien; or those who cannot either comprehend or perceive the efficacy of the principle of Universality and its Advaitic essence, to them Swami Vivekananda explains about the three stages of overall spiritual growth for humanity:
“Now I will tell you my discovery. All of religion is contained in the Vedanta, that is, in the three stages of Vedantic Philosophy, the Dvaita, Vasishtadvaita, and Advaita; one comes after the other. These are the three stages of spiritual growth in mankind. Each one is necessary. This is the essential of religion. The Vedanta applied to the various customs and ethnic creeds of India, is Hinduism. The first stage, Dvaita (dualism), applied to the ideas of the ethnic groups of Europe, is Christianity; as applied to the Semitic groups, Mohammedanism. The Advaita (nondualism) as applied in its Yoga-perception form is Buddhism, etc. Now by religion is meant the Vedanta; the applications must vary according to the different needs, surroundings and other circumstances of different nations. Dualist, qualified Monist, Monist, Shaiva, Vaishnava, Shakta, even the Buddhist and the Jain and others — whatever sects have arisen in India are all at one in this respect, that infinite power is latent in this Jivatman (individualized soul); from the ant to the perfect man there is the same Atman in all, the difference being only in manifestation.”
To further extrapolate on the teaching above, Dvaita, Dualism, proposes that God or Reality lies outside, possibly in nature, space, or the heavens, and is eternally separate from living beings. Vasishthadvaita, Qualified Nondualism, holds this view as well, but is modified by an emphasis on the interconnectedness of God and living beings, each one having its own place but sharing an intrinsic mutual relationship. Advaita, Nondualism, declares the absolute unity of God and the Soul, all differences being a matter of appearance rather than actuality. To clarify this further, Vivekananda used to give a cogent example drawn from the Christ’s teachings, exemplifying this triple subdivision aptly. He used the statement of Jesus advising to “pray to thy Father who art in Heaven” as an example of Dualism, and his statement of “I am the vine and thou art the branches” as an example of Qualified Nondualism, and the statement “I and my Father are One” to illustrate Nondualism.
This aptly intelligible formula, lying eternally at the very roots of Vedic philosophy, can make startling sense out of the potential morass of religious differences and philosophical conundrums standing in the way of a matured and accessible principle of Universality. And here, in this principle whose time has come, we shall see the perfect blending of science, religion, and philosophy. As the Svetashvataropanisad states:
“Practicing meditation, they realized that Being who is the God of religion, the Self of philosophy, and the Energy of science; Who exists as the self-luminous power in everyone; Who is the source of the intellect, emotions, and will; Who is one without a second; Who presides over all the causes enumerated herein, beginning with time and ending with the individual soul; and Who had been previously incomprehensible due to the limitations of their own intellect.”