“What right has a man to say he has a soul if he does not feel it, or that there is a God if he does not see Him? If there is a God we must see Him, if there is a soul we must perceive it; otherwise it is better not to believe.”
As a child I totally rejected religion. I must admit that a part of me did want to believe in God; I saw the strength and certainty it gave people. But the bigger (better?) part of me thought it all seemed so silly and nonsensical. The very idea of believing in anything at all seemed bizarre, let alone believing in some big person in the sky somewhere that created the universe but didn’t give me any sign of their existence. Or a god who performed great miracles in times gone by, but decided that now they wouldn’t bother any more and I had to read it in a book instead.
The very idea of believing in anything at all seemed bizarre, let alone believing in some big person in the sky…
Then there was the hypocrisy. I often saw people of faith doing mean-spirited things, judging people on superficialities such as their social status or the clothes they wore, and generally not always being nice to be around. Often religion was devoid of fun, love, creativity and open-heartedness.
It was only much later as a teenager that I was shown that there could be a spirituality that was rational and did not require belief, and yet speak equally to the heart as well as the mind. One day, whilst rummaging around in my parents’ bookcase as a young teenager, I came across a book that would change my life.
It was only much later…that I was shown that there could be a spirituality that was rational and did not require belief
It was called Raja Yoga and was written by a Bengali holy man who is very well-known in India. His name was Swami Vivekananda. The quote above is one of many taken from this book. Whilst I did not understand or did not agree with everything he wrote, his vision of religion as something that must be experienced firsthand revitalised me and filled me with excitement.
“We see that in the study of this Raja Yoga no faith or belief is necessary. Believe nothing, until you find it out for yourself; that is what it teaches us. Truth requires no prop to make it stand. Do you mean to say that the facts of our awakened state require any dreams or imagining to prove them? Certainly not.”
I remember reading through his essays as well as his commentaries on the Sanskrit text of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras which were also in the book. It was a magical time for me of exploration and expansion, a world where there was hope. I felt the possibility of something spiritual existing that could actually be known firsthand without books or beliefs.
Swami Vivekananda told me that I could know God directly. He said that this was the central truth present in all the great religions, it was merely expressed differently due to differences in time and place.
Do you have a story about how you became interested in spirituality? Has something like a book or event affected you profoundly? I’d love to hear about it…