The dictionary meaning of an atheist is one who does not believe in a god, but Vivekananda defined an atheist as one who does not believe in the glory of one’s soul. Likewise, sin is generally regarded as the wilful breaking of religious or moral law, but Vivekananda observed that the greatest sin is to consider oneself to be weak. ‘You will understand the Bhagwad Gita better with your biceps, your muscles, a little stronger,’ he said. He justified image-worship, undervalued during his time, by alluding to its psychological use as an aid to concentration. In his view, one does not move from error to truth, but from lower truth to higher truth — from forms to the formless, and even beyond.Vivekananda’s concept of religion transcends doctrines, dogmas, and pedagogy. His assertion that all religions are essentially in harmony with one another springs from the Rig Veda saying, Ekam sad vipra bahudha vedanti — ‘Truth is one; but the wise speak of it differently.’ Each religion has a distinct role to play, as it meets the requirements of people of different mental capabilities. It is wrong to lay down fixed dogmas and force society to adopt them.‘Why take a single instrument from the great religious orchestra of the earth? Let the grand symphony go on.’ He observed so, knowing well that religious diversity is both natural and desirable for the spiritual efflorescence of humanity. Each religion can enrich itself with the higher values professed by the other, and realise that all paths, ‘crooked or straight’ lead to the Supreme Source. Truth is the essence of divinity, inherent in every religion. His views had a seminal influence on Unitarians, Universalists, Christian Scientists, Congregationalists, later Transcendentalists, Neo-Christians, and liberals among Catholics.Satish Kapoor
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