Collected words from talks of Swami Tirtha

Question: In one lecture Sadhu Maharaj said that we must go above religiosity. Could you please speak about this very thin boundary between religiosity and spirituality?


Tirtha Maharaj: Thin!? It is great, it is a big difference! You become religious minded  after practicing yama-niyama. Yama-niyama – this is pros and cons, what should be done and what should not be done – the basic principles. If you follow the basic principles, people will think: “O, he is a religious person.” Although this is not religion, these are the basic principles of human existence. To practice ahimsa, or self-control, or to be religious – I mean to worship God – this is not religiosity, it’s nothing high; this is basic. But now we are living in such an age, that this is something very high. It should be basic, but this is something to be achieved.


But we can discuss this question on the principle of what is the difference between religion and faith. In many cases people think that religion is only preservation of a culture. To maintain some values. Which is half way true. We also have to cultivate that side of the process –so to say to inculturate some new practices. For example, that we offer respects like this, or we worship Krishna like that, there are many cultural elements, which are the outside formalities of this religious process.


The form and the essence are not so different, but there is some difference. Because faith is not preservation of some cultural values. What is faith? If bhakti is the cultivation of divine science of God, in a science there must be definitions. So what is the definition of faith? That by serving God, by serving Krishna, you fulfill all the other needs that are expected from you. This is the basic definition of faith. But this is tattva. What is rasa definition? There are always two sides: tattva and rasa. Tattva is truth; which is sometimes a little… I cannot say “dry”, but rasa is more tasty. And the rasa definition of faith is: that ever-growing natural instinct in the heart, which binds you to the eternal desire for divine and ecstatic service to Krishna. Sorry, I cannot repeat it once more. Because this is rasa, you know, rasa is spontaneous. So this is the rasa definition. And you should meditate a lot on that! This is the difference between religious and transcendental; between to be religious and to have real faith – ever-growing, living faith.


Question: The religiosity, if I understood correctly, is that stage when we are following some instructions, some rituals but so to say blindly, without full understanding.


Tirtha Maharaj: No, no, no! That’s not religiosity, that’s stupidity. Religious means that you always try to follow the rules and regulations. But this is not prema! Prema is ecstasy! Prema is not A,B,C. Prema is just like a cup of water. In the desert. Completely fulfilling.


If you follow blindly something, how can you become enlightened?! Impossible! Impossible! Blind following is never supported in the shastras. Krishna says in the “Bhagavad Gita”: “Search, examine – and serve.” Examine! Krishna never says: “Follow Me blindly.” More than six hundred verses He is teaching Arjuna “how you should follow Me.” And finally He says: “Now I have told you everything; you decide.” He does not say: “You have no option. You should do what I tell you.” Although many religions are based on that. “I tell you this commandment; otherwise you will be finished! I will just wipe you off!” Krishna says: “I have given My opinion; you decide.” He is more liberal. Why? Because He knows how Arjuna will decide. There is no way out for Arjuna, only to say: “Yes, I accept!” But in order to pacify you, He behaves like this. Because if He says: “You should do everything what I tell you,” you will run: “O, I cannot do everything that He says!” But in this way He is just chasing you, capturing you. No way out.


If somebody approaches you with affection, with love – you cannot escape. However you try, you cannot escape. Power corrupts. Absolute power absolutely corrupts. But love just wins over. And absolute love absolutely wins over. This is the glory, the eternal victory to the glorification of the holy name. It should be victorious all over! Because in this way Chaitanya Mahaprabhu can win over our demoniac mentality. This is our faith.


Transcendental means unaffected by anything material. Religious persons have desires. Because they are in need. Something is missing for them. Spiritual people are also full of desires. But the reason for their desires is not the missing feeling, but the sharing feeling. They are so full, that they want to share. On the elementary platform desire is for the need – to get. On the higher level, desire is there – to give. This is the difference between religious and spiritual.

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